The total package: Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is much more than just a stellar player for Aggies
For an athlete like Keeton, whose footspeed, athleticism and agility are such huge parts of his success, there was certainly cause for concern.
But he took a look at that big, dark cloud and, by maintaining an extremely positive perspective through it all, was able to see a brilliant silver lining in it.
"It was really tough at first," he admitted, pointing out that whenever the Aggies played a road game, he was so stressed out he couldn't eat a thing because his "stomach was just churning the whole time."
For him, the thing he missed the most was "the interaction with my teammates. And that was one thing that killed me more than not being able to play, because I can't tell them what I need to tell them and I can't tell them what they need to see."
He was soon able to be on the sideline during home games, though, and when a teammate suffered a concussion against Wyoming, it was Keeton who drove to the hospital to check up on him before the game ended.
"There I go being 'Team Mom' again," Keeton said. "I had to make sure he was all good, because everyone's at the game so none of the coaches are gonna be able to go. ... And I was like, well, he needs a face. ... Nobody really questioned it, just because that's kinda like what I do.
"Overall, my junior year sideline experience was love-hate at the end of the day. It was love because I was able to be with my guys and I was able to help (freshman quarterback) Darell (Garretson) as much as I could and keep the receivers and the O-line levelheaded and all that. But man, some of that was stressful at the same time. ... It was a love-hate experience. I love that we did so great, I truly do, but my only negative to that was that I wasn't able to be on the field with them to experience it and share it with them."
Keeton also saw something else take place among his teammates after his injury.
"I know the dynamic and the way we did things changed a little bit when I went down," he said, "and it was great to see because I know some of the guys they vocalized it that they needed to step up a little bit more and with that, I think that's another reason we played so much better toward the end of the season.
"And that's what gives me a lot more hope for this upcoming season, because I plan on being able to provide for them the way I used to, if not a little bit better, and I know that they have a little bit more in the tank because I've seen it. And at the end of the day, I think when we combine it, it's gonna be a great combination."
Yes, thankfully, Keeton still has his senior season left to play. And he and USU coach Matt Wells are hopefully optimistic that Keeton will return and be the same scrambling, difference-making QB he's always been.
Of course, it all depends on how that left knee responds.
"It's definitely good," Keeton said. "It's not at a hundred percent yet, but I definitely foresee it being there by the end of the summer. And it's not anything that's anything to worry about. It's just all the different movements that I do and different movements that our plays command that's just new to my knee.
"It's not new to anything like in my mind, I know how to do everything and I know how to execute it. But it's just a different feeling for my knee that it hasn't felt in a long time. So it takes a couple of repetitions at it and then after that it's perfect."
Coach Wells certainly hopes so.
"You expect Chuckie Keeton to be your four-year starter and here he comes," the Aggies' second-year coach said. "The unfortunate part is he got hurt in the middle of last year. But if you had asked me a year ago at this time, I knew he'd be my starting quarterback this year. He's just coming off an injury — that's it.
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