Introducing the 2005 Class: Keegan Herring

For several years now, Arizona State has done a solid job in ensuring that the top high school players in the Phoenix area don the maroon and gold. When it comes to running backs, a debate, as fierce as the rivalry between ASU and U of A, rages between fans of both schools as to who landed the better ball carrier in the 2005 class. Keegan Herring, the Sun Devils' incoming freshman, is confident that his team got the top running back in the state, and he cannot wait to prove it on Saturdays.

The 5-9 190 Keegan Herring knows that Wildcat fans are certain that their running back signee, Terry Longbons, is the better out of the two. While he puts the rivalry in perspective, there's no apprehension in his voice when discussing this topic. "I would love to go head-to-head with him," said Herring. "But it's not like Keegan Herring is gonna win, it's ASU that's gonna win. But between both of us, I think I'm the better player. I didn't care that U of A didn't recruit me as hard as ASU. I guess they didn't want the best, so I'm not gonna worry about that."

The list of accolades that Herring has enjoyed during his prep career is impressive. Some of his honors include pre- and postseason All-American selection by PrepStar Magazine, as well as being named to the top running back prospect in the state of Arizona by the same publication. He was the first junior to be named as the Whizzer White Player of the Year in Arizona since 1995, and was named Super All-State 2004 on offense by Phoenix Metro Football Magazine. Nevertheless, keeping a leveled head was easy thanks to one person in his life. "My mom pulled me through all that," Herring remarked. "She told me ‘you can win all these awards, but at the same time someone else in a different state may be doing the same thing.' She always thought me to keep on working hard and stay humble, and that's what helped be successful."

Herring was the first in-state commitment the Sun Devils received in the 2005 class, which is thanks to ASU's diligent recruiting early in the running back's career. "(ASU's running backs) Coach Nordquist started recruiting me in my junior year," Herring recalled. "From the beginning the program sounded great, and Coach Nordquist told me a lot of stuff about the school that got me interested in going to ASU."

Even though he grew up in the Valley of the Sun, he was one who played the game much more than he actually watched it as a fan. "I was a little kid that wanted to go out and play football, hang out with my friends and watch cartoons (smile)," Herring commented. "I really wasn't watching football. I was playing it on TV or outside."

Schools such as UCLA, Nebraska, and Texas pursued him heavily, and he aside from both in-state schools Oregon and Washington also extended him scholarship offers. Nevertheless, Herring knew that the chances of him leaving his old stomping grounds were always slim. "I knew I was gonna stay close to home, because I had a lot of support down here from my family and friends," he explained. "I already saw what was out there when I ran club track, so I knew that I wanted to stay in the state and help the hometown school win the Pac-10 championship instead of USC."

Despite being injured and missing four games as a senior, Herring rushed for over 900 yards and led Peoria high school to the state playoffs. During high school career, which includes two seasons at Peoria and one year at Trevor Browne, he collected 3,614 yards and 54 touchdowns in. The running back was a first-team all-state selection following his junior campaign. "People say I don't have moves because I always try to run over the defense," he said of his skills. "So I need to work on my agility and quickness. Right now I'm just running between the tackles and using my speed (runs a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, a 10.57 in the 100-meters, and a 21.4 in the 200-meters). I need to start juking people. I also could get stronger and faster, because I'm now playing at a higher level of competition."

Herring's exploits on the racing track, are just as impressive as his football accomplishments. He was the state 5A 100 and 200-meter champion as a sophomore, and in his senior campaign he was the first athlete in Arizona high school history to have the fastest time in the 100m, 200m, and 400m in the same year. He holds the state record in the first two events, and if it wasn't for a disqualification, he could make the same claim for the 400m.

"My track and field skills help me become a better football player," claimed Herring. "It helped me build my stamina and get faster. I'm gonna try to make the ASU track and field team, but if that doesn't work I'll stick with football." Herring also wrestled on Peoria High's team this past spring. It was his first stint in that sport, as he compiled a 21-7 record despite wrestling in the 215 pound class at 186 pounds.

Stamina and endurance are definitely in order these days, as Herring and his teammates go through the demanding off-season conditioning program. So how has the incoming freshman view his experiences thus far? "(Takes deep breath and smiles) I've been in the program for a month now," he said. "There were some hard times but I was able to get through those. I'm trying not to be in the back, but be with the veterans and learn from them."

He may not be a seasoned upperclassman, but all-around athlete and standout Rudy Burgess has the full admiration of Herring. "Rudy is just a beast out there," stated Herring. "I don't think he ever gets tired, and I try just to stick with him. He shows you how it needs to get down out there. He doesn't beat me by much in the drills, but he's a maniac out there. That's how running backs need to be – they can never get tired in a game."

There's very little argument over the fact that Burgess is the team's starter at running back. However, the overall position depth chart is much less clear, which could aid Herring in his quest to contribute in 2005. "I think my chances of playing right away are as good as anyone else," he said. "The running back situation is wide open. If I don't beat Rudy out, then I'll be the other running back coming off the bench, and that's cool."

"But it's also cool if the coaches redshirt me," Herring continued. "It won't harm me, and help me get better and have a chance to start next year. I have a pretty good chance to play right away, but I have to work hard and prove that on the field. The game is 90% mental. I can take some hits, but I just have to be ready mentally whenever I step on the field."

Herring is staying in the valley, and in his comfort zone. He never saw the several family members and friends in the stands, as a pressuring factor that could hinder him at any point. "My family is 100% behind me," he stated. "If a redshirt, they know all it means is that I have to get better and they'll look forward to seeing me play the next four years. They don't put pressure on me, and just tell me to go out there and be better than the rest."

If his high school career is any indication, the trend of excellence should continue in college. Recruit Profile

Name

Keegan Herring

High School

Peoria (Ariz.)

Position

TB

Height

5-9

Weight

190

Date of birth

5/12/87

Birthplace

Phoenix, Ariz.

Nickname

"Bam-Bam"

Favorite TV show

"South Park"

Favorite movie

"Remember the Titans"

Favorite singer/band

"DMX"

Favorite food

"Red Lobster"

Favorite drink

"Water and Gatorade"

Favorite athlete

"Walter Payton and Barry Sanders"

Favorite pro team

"St. Louis Rams"

Person you most admire

"My mom. She has been with me through my ups and downs."

First football memory

"Pop Warner. I was seven, and I was scared of getting hit. I was always running out of bounds. I don't mind getting hit now (smile)."

One thing most people don't know about me

"I'm shy."

Why did you choose ASU?

"Help Arizona State get to the Rose Bowl."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Hopefully in the NFL. If not I'd like to be teacher or a policeman."

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