LOGAN — The bad memories aren’t far removed, but Chuckie Keeton prefers not to dwell on them. Upon request, though, he can deliver the dates and circumstances of every injury in his star-crossed football career.
“Funny thing about it,” says the former dual-threat quarterback, “is I only finished one year.”
Everything else was juxtaposed like a Picasso.
“My freshman year, I had a neck injury at Hawaii at the end of the season. Sophomore year, I got banged up but I made it through. Two-thousand-thirteen, left ACL against BYU,” he says. “Two-thousand fourteen, left bone bruise against Wake Forest, and then 2015 I had a bone bruise against Utah … then had a right MCL sprain against Washington.”
There’s not a hint of self-pity in his voice.
“Then I was blessed enough to come back and finish out the season with the guys in the bowl game.”
It was a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss, in which he logged just 114 passing yards and minus-3 rushing.
“Were you 100 percent in that bowl game?” he is asked.
“I’m 100 percent every time I step on the field.”
It certainly looked that way on Friday as the Utah State Aggies wrapped up the second practice of the season at Maverik Stadium.
Keeton is among the leaders in virtually every USU career passing category. It makes sense that coach Matt Wells would hire him as a graduate assistant. Keeton spent the last two years coaching at Oregon State after a brief stop with the Houston Texans in the summer of 2016.
As he stands on Merlin Olsen Field in sweats, not much appears to have changed with Keeton since his playing days — except the absence of a knee brace. He is revved to go, in whatever way he can help. That was his mode when played, as well as when he didn’t. After the 2014 injury, he tweeted, “Walls of Jericho — knock ‘em down.”
It was easy to see, even then, that coaching would be his calling. He continued showing up for 6 a.m. quarterback meetings, even after injuries curtailed his seasons. He missed three games in 2011, none in 2012, seven in 2013, 11 in 2014 and six in 2015. But, even when sidelined, he accompanied the team, sometimes on crutches.
He says he never considered staying down after an injury.
“No, no,” he says. “That’s just part of life. You’re going to get knocked down. One way or the other, you have to get up.”
Despite missing 27 games — just 12 fewer than he played — Keeton ranks first in program history in touchdown passes and total offense, and second in passing yards, completions, passing attempts and completion percentage. Until he got hurt during his junior season, he was No. 2 nationally in touchdown passes.
He rushed for 1,415 yards in his career.
“I definitely thought I’d have a plan coming into the season, but there’s a greater plan, in my opinion,” he said in December 2014 as he watched teammates prepare for their bowl game. He began that season as a Heisman candidate.
Keeton was granted a hardship waiver, allowing him to play in 2015.
The addition of him to the coaching staff this year was an easy choice. Though the Aggies did reach bowl status in 2017, they were among the last teams in the country to make the cut, with a 6-6 record. They’re coming off an Arizona Bowl loss to New Mexico State. So there’s room to improve.
It seemed a great time to add some Chuckie.2 comments on this story
“I’m excited now that I get the opportunity to give some knowledge to someone else,” he says, though he’s actually working with the tight ends. “Hopefully someone else will break all my records — sooner rather than later.”
Wells has a checklist of his own regarding Keeton, but it’s not about injuries; it’s about qualities.
“He has tremendous work ethic,” Wells says. “He has great knowledge of the game. He has street credibility with the players already. And he has a great demeanor of positivity.”
Wells’ voice rises slightly for emphasis.
“Chuckie Keeton,” he says, “is on the fast track in this profession.”
He always was good in the open field.