The total package: Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is much more than just a stellar player for Aggies
"From a health standpoint, I expect a very, very high level of play. I expect him to start right where he left off, which was very, very efficient, very effective, very explosive, very stingy with the football — all of those things. So as long as he gets back to being the same Chuckie, then I expect that that's what we'll see.
"Time will tell; none of us know," Wells said. "Let's be real with it. Every knee is different, every rehab is different; we do feel like he's right on track. And from what I hear, he's doing well. But until that is proven out there on the field in a live game, then we won't know. But I've got full confidence in that kid. There's not a kid that's gonna work harder in this program than him, and I'm looking forward to watching him play."
Keeton admitted that, at times, he might be his own worst enemy.
"The thing that's probably not the greatest with me is that I trusted my body too much, and I'll take the blame for that," he said. "That could be why I've been hurt a couple times. But I definitely don't believe in second-guessing anything.
"I can't really say it's a trust thing," he said of his rebuilt knee. "It's really just getting my muscles back; more than anything, it's getting the muscles around my knee back into the swing of things.
"And it's OK — I've already run into a couple things at home, so I've been testing myself."
Keeton can take inspiration from other football stars like Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who both came back from similar ACL injuries to play at an extremely high level again.
Keeton is a native of Houston, and since Griffin played his college football at Baylor, the Aggies' quarterback is well-acquainted with Griffin's accomplishments.
"The year before he won the Heisman Trophy, he actually tore his ACL," Keeton said of Griffin. "So when he did it with the Redskins, that was actually his second time doing it. I don't know if it was the same knee, but he's done it before.
"So I guess that's kind of my inspiration; once again, he's a Texas kid and he's a quarterback. So I definitely know it's doable and I know you can have success afterwards.
"But at the end of the day, the great thing about quarterback is we're the most reliant people on the field because there's no way in the world we can do our job just by ourselves," Keeton said. "You have to have receivers to throw to, you have to have the O-line protecting you. So really, more than anything, what they're really relying on me more on is to be in the right position to throw the football and to do everything mentally because, more than anything, the game of quarterback is mental.
"Not only do we have to know the plays, but we have to know who we need to read and all that. So I think that was a very big benefit of me being hurt because I was able to not actually, physically do it, but mentally walk through every play while I was watching."
Being stuck on the sidelines for half of last season and much of spring ball also had other benefits for Keeton, who has maintained great balance between football and the other aspects of his life off the field.
"It gave me a lot of time to reflect on myself versus just focusing on what cover-three is and all that," he said. "So that was definitely a big thing. And I was able to kind of settle down a little bit and just relax and kinda get back to being a normal person for a second."
And Keeton realizes that, having missed half of his junior season, he's still got plenty to prove, and feels strongly that his best days are still ahead of him.
"If you're at the top — say I had an amazing year and all that last year — well, there's not many places to go but down," he said, pointing out that former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny "Mr. Football" Manziel did not have as strong of a sophomore season as he did following his Heisman Trophy-winning season as a freshman. "Once you hit the peak, there's only one way to go.
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