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Utah State football: Air Force visit meaningful for Keeton

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 6:12 p.m. MDT

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) of Utah State scrambles against the University of Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) of Utah State scrambles against the University of Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

LOGAN — Utah State has not played Air Force since 1969 in football, but it will be a return visit for one Aggie player traveling to the Air Force Academy this weekend.

The fortunes and development of athletes and football programs often rest on the decisions made in the recruiting process. Nowhere is that more evident than with Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton. The junior has been a key part of Utah State’s football revival, but the pairing of Keeton and the Aggies almost never came to be.

Up until the midway point of his senior season in high school, Keeton had a verbal commitment to Air Force. Then one night Aggie coach Jovon Bouknight came to a Cypress Creek High School game in Texas. After the two talked, Keeton de-committed from the Falcons.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) of the Utah State Aggies scores in the third quarter against the University of Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) of the Utah State Aggies scores in the third quarter against the University of Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Former head coach Gary Andersen saw the potential immediately and recruited Keeton hard. The team brought him out for an official visit in October where Keeton watched the Aggies beat BYU in front of a sold-out crowd at Romney Stadium. It wasn’t the game or the atmosphere that won the young Houston native over but the off-the-field relationships that quickly developed.

“I met new people every night when I was here,” Keeton said. “There were no groups or cliques, just one big brotherhood, which is what it is now.”

Keeton verbally committed to Utah State that warm October weekend and never wavered even when bigger schools came calling. Since then he has not put much thought into how things might have been different if he had made a different decision.

“I didn’t really think of it much until I found out (Air Force) was on the schedule this year,” Keeton said. “I’m happy where I’m at. I’m progressing on a completely different path than I would have if I had gone there.”

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) celebrates his run for a long gain  against Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City  Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) celebrates his run for a long gain against Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

With the ability Keeton has shown to make plays with his feet, there is little doubt he could have been an excellent option attack quarterback had he chosen the path to Air Force. At Utah State however, head coach Matt Wells has developed Keeton into a true dual-threat quarterback, something that might not have happened at the academy.

Wells believes the growth is far from over and Keeton is still scratching the surface of his capabilities as a passer and a complete quarterback. It's a scary thought for future opponents considering he just threw for more than 300 yards and completed nearly 80 percent of his passes on the road against Utah last week.

Keeton has kept his focus firmly on the Aggies during practice the last few days but is still looking forward to visiting a place he almost called home; this time from the inside of the visiting locker room.

“It has a little more meaning, but I can’t give too much emotional depth to just one game,” Keeton said of playing at Air Force. “It’s still going to be an exciting game. I’m going to like seeing the campus and the stadium just like I did before. Now I get to beat them. It’s going to be a fun thing to have happen.”

Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.

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