Keller Humble in Light of Quick Success

When Sam Keller and Michael Affleck both signed with ASU, it was crystal clear that one of these outstanding signal callers would not redshirt in 2003. What was somewhat vague was if that true freshman would be seeing game time action or just regulated to holding a clipboard. Sam Keller, who has been anointed the backup quarterback, answered that question in a decisive manner with his performance in Camp Tontozona. DevilsDigest talked to the freshman sensation about his performance.

The true freshman from Danville, CA was 6 of 10 for 128 yards and two touchdowns in a scrimmage earlier in the week Yesterday, he capped off an impressive pre-season camp completing 7 of 15 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns. However, he was far from gloating when asked to assess his well-received performance. "I thought it went well. But every time you go out there there's stuff you can improve on. I thought I made some good throws, but I still have to slow down. I'm still nervous out here, and I'm still getting used to this offense…I'm just trying to do my best."

The humble Keller was quick to compliment those around him. "Everybody that worked with me on the offense stood out. All the receivers did very well and made great catches. When you have athletes like that and you can trust them, it makes my job so much easier. Everybody was out there making plays, and I was doing my best to follow through." The true freshman reserved the highest praise to the player that he's backing up. "Andrew has helped with me with everything. Andrew is the most humble guy I ever met. And for someone who's so good, you'd think he would be cocky. But he's helped me as much or more than Coach Koetter and Coach Helfrich. He's a stud. You can't say enough about Andrew."

Keller admitted that in the Tuesday scrimmage he had problems making the routine throws. How does he think he faired on Saturday? "I thought I did a better job today, but I still need to clam down a lot more. When a coach calls a play it's because he wants you to hit a certain throw. Sometimes I would go out there, like in the other scrimmage, and make a misread. I would get too excited and overthrow my receiver."

The speed of the game for a first year quarterback can be quite daunting. Sure enough that was one aspect that Keller knows he will need to adjust to in order to be successful. "I think in the first scrimmage I understood the offense, but I was still late and not quick like Andrew. I wanted to get to that point where I can get back and just know when I'm going with the ball so I can give us a good chance to make a play. I think I did better today, but I'm still not as quick as I should be…I'm still missing reads, when we're making side adjustments. On some of our plays, when we make an adjustment when the defense blitzes, I need to recognize it so I can still hit a guy."

In the dozen or so practices Keller has had in his short college career, he quickly learned how different the game is from his high school days at San Ramon Valley. "Before, I never had to make reads on a defense. In high school, I could just find a guy, go back and hit him. Coming from high school to college is a very big jump for a freshman. You have to go back there, and know exactly what you're doing before you're even doing that. I'm still a little jumpy when I get up there, and I need to just calm down and let the game come to me"

The Camp Tontozona experience is something that upperclassmen may enjoy more than the freshmen that are just breaking in. The quarterback took the whole event in stride. "Everybody has to go through it. I miss being back in Tempe, but it's part of the football. You have to come out here and bond with your teammates. You get to know the seniors, but you're still in the freshman trailer. They come and play tricks on you, but that's part of paying your dues. But on the flip side they're all great leaders and I look up to them. Camp is a great chance to get acclimated with your teammates." Keller was tight lipped when describing the hazing activities that took place in the pines near Payson. "They came with super soakers, that's all I'm gonna say (smile)…but it wasn't anything too bad. They can do whatever they want – it's part of camp. I didn't come away scared for life or anything like that (smile)…"

The fact that Keller is more than likely to see extensive action against Northern Arizona, ASU's first opponent, may be transparent to every Sun Devil follower but him. "I'm not looking too much ahead for that game. I'm just gonna work hard and see what happens." The first year signal caller is very appreciative of the extra repetitions he has been getting thus far in practice, and calls them an essential ingredient for his success. "The only way for me to be successful is if they (the coaches) gave me the reps. Without them I'd be lost. When they put me in there and have me start learning I did make some good throws. I just fell into a good position."

Success in such a short amount of time can be a recipe for disaster. Nevertheless, if one goes about his business, like Sam Keller, accolades should have nothing but a positive effect on one's play. "It's very exciting, and I'm there (at the backup spot) for a reason. But I can't let myself get caught up with that…I'm just gonna try to stay focused and learn as much as I can. I have a job to do." A well-done job by Keller is giving the maroon and gold faithful an encouraging glimpse into the future, and perhaps proving comfort for the uncertainty that may follow Andrew Walter's departure from the program.

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