Keller Not Resting on Sun Bowl Laurels

The last game of the 2004 season was also Sam Keller's first career start at Arizona State. Being named the Sun Bowl's MVP was naturally the junior's best performance in his collegiate tenure. Nevertheless, it has been fairly easy for the signal caller to put that game and its accolades to rest, and focus on spring practice and the areas that require improvement. Devils Digest talked to Keller about spring practice, when confidence crosses the line, and flexing his biceps after a score…

Passing for 370 yards and a trio of touchdowns, two of them in the last six minutes of the game, showcased Sam Keller's ability to effectively lead the maroon and gold offense. "I was so ready for that game," he recalled. "I had so much time, it's almost like I knew Purdue like the back of my hand." Nonetheless, the first several minutes of the game were anything but smooth sailing. "We would drive, and things would stall – it wasn't going the way I planned in my head," he explained. "But once it started to get real competitive in the second half, they started making plays, and we had to make plays and we made them."

Despite the Sun Bowl being his inaugural start at ASU, Keller was confident in his ability to rally the team out of a deficit and towards victory. "When they scored that last touchdown after the blocked punt, I remember being really mad," he said. "It's like I knew what was gonna happen – there was just too much time."

That statement concerning Purdue leaving ample amount of time for an ASU comeback, along with Keller's bicep flexing and martial arts bow following his touchdowns, could have created an image of a quarterback who may posses an unhealthy dose of cockiness. However, Keller is well aware of the fine line that exists between this negative virtue and confidence. "When you're cocky you get ahead of yourself and start to lose respect for yourself on your own team, " he explained. "If you lose sight of the fact that what you're doing is happening because of everybody else, then what does that make the other guys on the team feel like? I've never been a cocky guy, but at the same token you'll always see confidence with me."

And what about flexing the muscles? "That was confidence (smile)," he remarked. "That's a part of who I am. When something good happens, I get a rush of energy. I don't where it comes from but that's just how I am ever since I can remember." That celebration revealed a an Asian writing tattoo on his arm. Keller explained its meaning. "My name Samuel is some translations means name of god. My tattoo says name of god in Japanese." He did quipped that he hoped his Japanese tattoo wouldn't nickname him Samurai Sam

Keller has stated numerous times how much he has learned from Andrew Walter in terms of his behavior on and off the field. (He even mentioned having a great time belting out some "oldie songs" with the ex-Sun Devil). Nevertheless, the junior doesn't find himself modeling his game after signal callers on the professional level. "All growing up I looked at every quarterback and what they had to offer," he said. "Brett Favre's toughness, John Elway is never out of a game…I never really modeled myself but I looked at each one and said ‘so that what it takes…I need to have that.' Just bits and pieces from every guy. I'm not gonna be like any one person. The most things I can improve myself are what I've always done."

Coach Koetter has pointed out following last Saturday's scrimmage and even after Monday's practice, that the offense has been struggling. Keller offered some explanation as to why this has been happening. "In speaking for myself, my decision making is gotta to improve," he said. "I'm almost there…a big part was communication. Things weren't going as crisp and as smooth as they could be. We've had spurts out here where we were moving and things were going good, and that wasn't there in the scrimmage (last Saturday)."

"The thing that needs to happen is consistency," Keller continued. "Guys need to compete – not slow down or quit on plays. There just needs to be more chemistry. We have so many guys that are talented, that once it comes together it would be special. That's why coach is saying it isn't there. We just have to keep hacking at it, watch film, and come with the right mindset and the right tempo. I'm positive that things will be better this week. We have to have high expectations for ourselves."

True, the Sun Bowl did breed a lot of confidence in Keller, his teammates, and coaches, as well as ignited the imagination and expectations of the Sun Devil faithful for 2005. However, it's very obvious to Keller what requires his immediate attention. "Spring ball is what catapults us into next season," he stated. "Our spring ball last year was very good, and got us going into the season. The Sun Bowl is behind us, and it was awesome – we have the memories. But every year is a new year and a new team, and it's really exciting to think what could happen this year. But it all starts here. We can't think of anything else but the present."

Keller's expectations of himself come down to his desire to conduct what is in his mind a potentially explosive offense. "I want to be the guy that makes it happen," he said. "We have so many good players on this team. When we have all of our targets out there we'll be though to stop. If I can get to the point where my decision-making is pretty close to perfect – the sky is the limit."

The Sun Bowl was an appetizing preview. Similar performances by Sam Keller throughout the 2005 season, could make this season into a delightful maroon and gold feast.

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