As I talked to linebacker, Michael Keenan, the moment was upon him and it was quite obvious, this was a significant moment in his life. Well, perhaps a little more than that. "This is the best thing that has ever happened to me." Michael said of his offer and subsequent commitment to NU.
Awash with the emotion, Michael still had a chance to put into perspective the reason he committed to NU for reasons other than the fact that it was NU. "The people, the coaches." Michael said. "I haven't gotten to really know them, but in the last few weeks I have had with them, it's just been a huge impact on me."
"Every coach I met just made a great impression."
I realize that some Husker fans are saying to themselves ‘I don't know any of the names that have committed thus far'. Because of that, people just tend to find themselves not as excited as they might be had a huge "name" player been in the place of Michael. Just to calm those fears behind not getting that well-known prospect, just take a look at the size and speed of this Missouri standout. 6'2"+, 220+ and he runs a reported 4.4? Who needs names when you got measurements like this?
Aside from the numbers that are gaudy to the extreme, that's about all you are going to see and hear that's flamboyant about Michael Keenan. He may be a linebacker, but he's got a mentality that belies the position, but for Keenan, it works and has made him even more attractive to coaches. "I do what I am told." Michael said of one of his self-perceived biggest assets. "I listen, to the coaches."
"I do the work and pay attention to what they have to say."
This mind-set comes as a little surprise as most athletes don't yield so much credit to coaches they currently have, nor do they state that it will be because of coaches as being a considerable reason for their future success. As you can see, Michael has no qualms with that. "They (the coaches) obviously know a lot more than I do, so it's important to pay attention to what they have to say."
That coachability makes Keenan attractive along with his rather robust numbers, but his subdued nature in learning only partially translates to what he does on the field. That's when Michael lets another side out. "I'm not cocky, but I like to hit people." Michael said. "I want to be the best player on the field every time I am out there."
"I don't say that in cockiness, but I just want to give everything I have and give my team the best chance to win."
Winning is the bottom line for most players, but a team concept is better illustrated by the individual in what their goals are for the year. While some are enamored with numbers, some with stars and awards, some like Michael find their goals defined most clearly by everyone doing better and not just them. When some defensive players would find a sack the most thrilling part of the game, a tackle for loss or running a fumble back for a touchdown, Keenan has a different idea. "The three and outs are the best." he said. "All I want are three and outs all day, just defeating the offense."
The commitment to the Huskers was fairly surreal for Keenan. It was like a moment spun in amidst a variety of other moments, one clouding the other, but that one moment where he knew he was going to be a Husker, still standing out. The offer from Nebraska itself was equal to the affect it had on Michael as well. "You really can't get much better than an offer from Nebraska." he said. "That's about as good as it gets from one of the best college football programs in history."
And history says that Nebraska has had some good linebackers there. Whether it's name that span as far back as Tom Novak or Jerry Murtaugh to some of the more recent achievers at the position like Trev Alberts and Terrell Farley, anyone that has seen these guys plays has to be impressed. Can they also see themselves doing what they did, how they did it and with as much success? "I believe in myself." Michael said. "I mean, I never thought I would be where I am right now, having an offer from Nebraska and getting a chance to play with such a great program."
"But, I know what I can do and I have confidence in how hard I work, how much I listen to the coaches and the fact that I give everything I have every time I am on that field. I can't say that I am going to be as good as they were, but I know I am going to try."
Effort really is the bottom line for Keenan. Despite all this impressive measurements, despite the hoopla and all that, he's a blue collar guy with the attitude that no matter what, you bring it to the table and leave nothing left but the plate. That's the attitude he takes into his final year in high school and that's the attitude he will take the second he steps on campus.
What about the field though? All the other stuff aside, just what is the goal for this future linebacker? "I think redshirting is probably what I will do." Michael said. "That way I have a chance to learn and get into that weight room."
The weight room often has recruits marveling in envy as they see themselves there, working out, getting bigger, faster and stronger. There's another place that Michael sees himself, a place that perhaps even more look at, think back and wish, if only they could be there. "I love that "Sea of Red"." Michael said of Nebraska's infamous home crowd. "I've been to Missouri games, KU games, Kansas State games and they aren't even close."
"That will be a dream come true. I don't know what else to say. It's just awesome."
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619