The total package: Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is much more than just a stellar player for Aggies

Published: Wednesday, June 18 2014 7:30 p.m. MDT

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton has recovered from a knee injury that he suffered against BYU in October 2013 and will play this upcoming football season. Photographed at Romney Stadium in Logan on Friday, June 13, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

LOGAN — Chuckie Keeton is much, much more than "just" a football player.

Oh, make no mistake about it, this young man is a tremendous player, one of the best college quarterbacks in the entire country.

But his leadership ability, big-picture perspective, and amazing attitude in the face of adversity make him a lot more than just another gridiron great.

After all, this is a guy who suddenly had his 2013 campaign ripped away from him when, in the sixth game of the season last October against BYU, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament — yes, the dreaded ACL injury that has befallen so many athletes over the years.

But, incredibly, Keeton says in some ways the devastating injury may have been a blessing in disguise.

"It was tough for a little bit," he said, "but at the end of the day, I knew I still had a heart and I knew I had a brain, so I knew I'd still live. ... I love football and everything that comes with it, but I mean, if something exploded and football no longer existed, I'd still be able to live. I guess that was the backdrop I had and the thing that was in the back of my mind.

"It definitely gave me a different outlook, not just on life, but just on a lot of different aspects of life. First of all, football isn't life — that's a very big thing. Whenever you're caught up in either having a really good season where people know you more for football than, like, he was the guy that might've opened the door for this lady, then it kinda changes your perspective. It makes you think a lot more about just football than your actual life. Football isn't going to be here for the rest of my life, but everything else will.

"It was an experience, to say the least," Keeton said of dealing with the torn ACL. "It was an experience that I definitely won't forget. But more than anything else — OK, I'd rather have not torn my ACL, but I cannot regret that it happened because so much good has come from it that I can't have any hard feelings towards it. It was something that — it's crazy to say I'm happy I tore my ACL — but at the end of the day, I kinda am. I learned a lot from it."

"The play" took place on Oct. 4, 2013 in the first quarter of a home game against the Cougars when Keeton scrambled out of the pocket and headed upfield, leaped to avoid a tackler and gain more yardage, then was hit by another BYU defender just as he landed. He went down and the knee buckled, and Keeton immediately knew it wasn't a routine football injury.

"The thing is, I've had a few tweaks in my knee, I've dealt with pain before and the pain has always been temporary," he said. "So I knew I could get through it. "But when I hit the ground, I knew it was something different; I knew it wasn't normal pain. So immediately, I started to panic a little bit; I was yelling a lot, so that wasn't good. But I didn't cuss, which is a good thing — I kept my integrity.

"When I got up, I knew I wasn't really walking that easily and I knew I had a lot of instability in my knee, because when I hit the ground and I kind of rolled over and my leg just kind of fell," Keeton said. "As soon as I got up and I saw my guys around me, I was definitely OK and all that. Of course, I was still hurting, but I knew everything would be OK.

"Sure, it was the end of my football season, but I knew at one point there would be better things to come, and I've got one more year so I'm looking forward to that."

As anyone who has dealt with a torn ACL knows, it's a long, painful process to get that knee healed up again — surgery, the frustration brought on my forced inactivity, months of rehabilitation therapy, and all the mental and emotional uncertainty that goes with it: Will that knee ever be the same again? Will you be able to do all the things you could do before?

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