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Brad Rock: The curse of being quarterback

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 2:30 a.m. MDT

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) runs against  Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Kyle Van Noy (3) during NCAA football game in Logan  Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.  Keeton was injured and had to leave the game . BYU won 31-14.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) runs against Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Kyle Van Noy (3) during NCAA football game in Logan Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Keeton was injured and had to leave the game . BYU won 31-14. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Some jobs aren’t worth the risk. Royal food tester, for instance. But if there’s one job everyone in his right mind should avoid, it’s playing quarterback -- particularly in Utah.

Taking snaps around here is a voyage on the Ghost Ship of the Damned.

I bring this up because of Chuckie Keeton’s season-ending injury in Logan last Friday. The USU quarterback went down and stayed down, and there wasn’t a soul in the stadium that thought he would play again this year. It took until Saturday for the university to confirm he had torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, but I could have diagnosed that in June. It was bound to happen.

Keeton was just the latest in a string of local college quarterback to suffer. BYU’s Riley Nelson played most of last season with a broken back – and he was one of the lucky ones. He didn’t get permanently sidelined until the 11th game, after tearing rib cartilage. However, his back troubles began in the second game. He also played a game with a collapsed lung.

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) against  BYU  during NCAA football game in Logan  Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.  Keeton was injured and had to leave the game .  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) against BYU during NCAA football game in Logan Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Keeton was injured and had to leave the game . (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

He later told KFAN-1320, “I’m not one to tell you about my owies and boo-boos.”

Seems more like howlies and screamies to me.

“Quarterback is probably one of the most defenseless positions in all of football,” Utah co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “A lot of the hits, you don’t even see them coming.”

Jordan Wynn played for the Utes from 2009-12, with the highlight being the Poinsettia Bowl his freshman season. Then the unceasing injuries began. He spent as much time in the examination room as in practice, missing most of 2011 with a shoulder injury. In last year’s second game, he took a hit against Utah State that put him out for good. After that he was free to wear his hipster glasses wherever he went; all he could do was watch.

Also in 2012, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill was taking a routine snap at the end of the game against Utah State and suddenly he was gone for the season, thanks to a knee injury. This year featured a cruel twist for Keeton, the Heisman candidate. Now it was the other way around. It’s the Aggie QB who gets to hold the clipboard.

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) watches the replay board from the bench in the second half after injuring his leg in the first half against BYU at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) watches the replay board from the bench in the second half after injuring his leg in the first half against BYU at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Less threatening but still disconcerting is that Utah’s Travis Wilson played last Saturday’s game against UCLA with a mystery illness. That’s not the same as an injury, but you have to wonder if it’s all part of the curse. Coach Kyle Whittingham was short on specifics on Monday, saying only that Wilson was sick in bed all day game day and was on antibiotics.

Wilson was back at practice on Tuesday, looking no worse for the wear. Still, he’s a quarterback, and trouble seems to follow them. Weber State's Jordan Adamczyk quit the team last week after a series of knee injuries cost him the starting job, then convinced him to retire.

“Jordan’s got a bad wheel,” coach Jody Sears told the Standard-Examiner.

Some injury problems are the offensive line’s fault. Wynn got hit as he rushed a pass. Keeton, though, was ranging in the open field, doing what he always does. Occasionally it’s a coaching mistake, as when BYU told Hill to run a keeper instead of taking a knee at the end of that fateful 2012 game. But usually it’s just aggressive opponents, few who want to be dirty, but all harboring mayhem in their hearts.

So is the ability to get back up just a matter of luck?

“Some guys break a little bit easier than others,” Johnson said. “It’s the nature of the beast.”

I’m convinced anybody who starts at quarterback is begging for trouble. He may as well walk under a ladder or step on all the cracks in the sidewalk. If I were named a starting quarterback, I’d say thanks but no thanks. I prefer walking to classes, not hobbling. Confidence is one thing, fate another. Around here, being under center is the next closest thing to walking the plank.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

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