Bloomington, Ind. – William Kegler buckled to the power of suggestion.
The one-time standout defensive tackle from Indianapolis' Arsenal Tech and then Pike H.S. had given up on the possibility of playing college football soon after graduating from high school in 1999. He had a handful of scholarship offers, but one thing stood in the way.
"I didn't like school," Kegler said.
So instead continuing his education and football career, Kegler instead opted for a full-time job at a Rent-A-Center, where he eventually become a store manager.
In his free time, though, he found himself stumbling across people who thought he should give college football a shot. There was former IU All-America basketball player Ray Tolbert, who saw Kegler playing basketball at an Indianapolis church. There was also former IU football players Enoch DeMar and Isaac Sowells, a pair of offensive linemen who are now playing in the NFL.
"I was bigger than both (DeMar and Sowells), and we tussled all the time and I could out-wrestle them," Kegler said. "So they were like, ‘you might as well give it a shot.'"
Tolbert, then, helped facilitate that opportunity. Before long, Kegler was in Bloomington meeting with IU Director of Football Operations Harold Mauro about the possibility of walking on to the program. While his conditioning level prevented him from going out for the team in his first go-around last year, he's since gotten himself in better shape, and is now a walk-on to Coach Terry Hoeppner's program.
And Kegler isn't your run-of-the-mill walk-on. Instead, he's a 6-8 ½, 395-pound, 26-year-old who is easily to biggest player on the IU roster, a possibly in the Big Ten.
"He's a very large human being," said IU defensive line coach Brian George.
But Kegler is more than a big body. He's a good athlete as well, and he insists he can be more than just a road block in the middle of a defensive front.
"I'd say the best thing about me is I'm fast," Kegler said. "You wouldn't believe that from looking at me, but for 400 pounds I'm pretty quick. That's where I catch everyone off guard."
Now, he's hoping to catch on and stick with the IU program. He's been sidelined in recent days with a possible turf toe, but he's in much better shape than when he first met with Mauro last year. His first go-around was cut short when he couldn't pass a fitness test, but he's since worked on his own to shed some fat and has resurfaced with the team this spring.
"Last summer I weighed about the same, but there was a big difference in the percentage of body fat to muscle," said Kegler. "This year I've probably lost 40 pounds of body fat and put that back on in muscle."
Kegler said he envisions himself getting down to about 385 pounds by the fall, and once he does that, he thinks he can play a significant role on the defensive line.
"I believe once I do get in shape, I don't think there are many offensive linemen who can stop me from getting through," Kegler said.
In a lot of ways, the only thing that could hold back Kegler is himself. He's an imposing presence, someone who doesn't look overweight at 395 pounds. But George said his newest defensive linemen still needs to make some progress from a conditioning standpoint to be a contributor once the fall rolls around.
"He has a lot of athletic ability," George said. "The test for him is if he can play at the speed for a consecutive number of plays. That's the biggest hurdle for him to overcome – to be able to play multiple plays at a time. He needs to work on that."
Can Kegler Come Up Big?
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