The total package: Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is much more than just a stellar player for Aggies
"So where I'm at right now, I still have a lot of growing to do. And with that, if I continue to grow, then I can help this team grow and I can help this program grow, which means more wins, which means better recruits, and ultimately a better program which could lead to more seasons and more bowl wins and all that.
"So my big goal, at least for this team, is to win a conference championship — I've only been able to win one since I've been here, but it was an incredible feeling," Keeton said. "And I definitely want to relive that. And then, we've been to three bowl games in a row now and won the last two, and I want to keep that going."
Keeton's other goals for 2014 include winning the Aggies' season opener against Tennessee, to win more games than the school-record 11 they won in 2012, to help his team be highly efficient at scoring in the red zone, to continue to push himself to be the best player and leader that he can be and, of course, to stay healthy.
If he does that, it's realistic to think that all of the other goals he and the Aggies have set for themselves could be accomplished by a program that, despite its recent run of success, still has a bit of an underdog mentality and chip on its shoulder.
"I guess what I'm trying to do is kinda write a fairy tale in my head, and hopefully it can come to fruition, I guess," he said. "If you don't set your goals on the highest thing, then it's not going to happen.
"As players, I think we've always been a little underappreciated and underestimated a little bit, but we've always managed to play well. The guys that've come through here like Bobby Wagner (now a star linebacker for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks) is a top-100 draft pick but, from the outside looking in, you're like, 'Well, how'd he come from Utah State?' because a lot of people don't know us as well as they should. But that's how a lot of us came up. We have a lot of good players, but we didn't necessarily get the easiest path to get to where we are.
"That's why we've been able to play in bigger games and play well," Keeton said. "I think it's a mentality that we have. It's kind of like a bulldog; a bulldog can be down two rounds and still come back. And I think that's just the mentality that we have here."
After he leaves Utah State, Keeton hopes to continue his career in the National Football League, where comparisons between him and the Seahawks' Super Bowl winning quarterback, Russell Wilson, are inevitable.
"We're similar in size, about the same weight, have similar backgrounds, we both played baseball, and he's pretty good at improvisation and being smart with the football," Keeton said. "He has always focused on taking care of the football and being smart with the football.
"It's nice to see what he's doing, and then the fact that I'm getting even a slight comparison to him is definitely a great thing. I'm happy to be in the same sentence with him."
But before he begins thinking about a possible future life in the NFL, there's one more year to spend in Logan and Cache Valley, a community that has embraced him since day one.
"It sucks that I'm gonna have to say goodbye to Utah State," Keeton said. "Since coming here, I've been able to expand the lifestyle that I have. ... During summers in Houston, I played baseball and worked out — and that was about it. Now during summers here, we're floating down the river, we go jet skiing, and it has allowed me to expand and not just be a guy who plays football and goes to school. I've gotten the opportunity to meet and know a lot of wonderful people.
"When I first came here and met some of the guys and some of the coaches here, they wanted me to be here. It was like, well, if you have the potential to be one of us, then we're going to accept you. And ever since I've been here, that's how it's been. Whether I was any good or I was the last person on the entire team's depth chart, that's how it would be and that's how it is right now. You can feel just kind of a family-type environment.
" ... They intrigued me," he said. "The coaches cared and they wanted to know how I was, and it wasn't anything fake. And this was before I even knew who Coach (Gary) Andersen was. He was one of the first real head coaches I had. It's been a great fit for me to be here. Ultimately, I don't have a single regret about my decision to be here."
Keeton said living in Logan and going to school at Utah State reminded him of a scene from a movie, "The Fault in Our Stars," that he recently watched.
"They said, 'This girl did not want to be loved widely, but she wanted to be loved deeply.' And I think this is it," he said. "This place might be one of the best descriptions of that.
"We don't have a huge, huge fan base. I know Utah is bigger and BYU is bigger. But the people around here care about the people at this school, and not just about me, and that shows a lot. ... And that's a huge thing. It's an incredible thing to think about from an outside perspective."
Yes, Chuckie Keeton is definitely loved deeply at Utah State. And he feels the same way about the school, the community and the people of Cache Valley — one more major reason that he's much more than "just" an outstanding football player for the Aggies.
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