He was recruited as a jumbo athlete by the Gamecocks, capable of playing tight end or defensive end. McKeen enrolled in 2005, and physically he was ready for the rigors of college football. He turned heads right away in Columbia, earning a spot in the rotation at defensive end behind senior De-Adrian Coley. However, he injured his back in the second game of the season (against Georgia) and would be sidelined for the rest of the year. Talent-wise, McKeen knew he was ready for big-time football. He admits that mentally he might not have been.
"On the field, I came in ready to play," he said. "There was a senior above me at defensive end, but I was the top reserve before my injury against Georgia. I was out there just doing what I was taught. Coach Nix was a great coach, and he was teaching me up and I was making plays.
"I think it was away from the field where I wasn't ready. A lot of that probably came from me being caught up in all the hype. I was still immature and I don't think I was ready for what it took to excel on and off the field."
In the spring following his freshman season, McKeen was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, trespass after notice, and failure to stop on police command following an incident in a bar. He admitted he had some issues, but wanted to clear up what he labeled wrong information.
"I keep reading how people are saying that I was kicked off South Carolina's team," said McKeen. "I was never going to be kicked off at South Carolina. They wanted me to stay around bad, and I was going to be suspended for three games. The thing is, I decided I wanted to transfer. I had my papers and everything, and I planned on transferring to Rutgers, but I was slack and immature and didn't have my grades where they needed to be so I could transfer.
"That is how I ended up at Nassau. I had to go to a Junior College to get my grades right, and now I have a good enough GPA to go wherever I want."
McKeen has decided that place is NC State. In 2007, he tallied 42 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss (led team), and four sacks (led team) as he earned first-team All-NFC honors. Several major colleges pursued him, but he had a general idea of what programs he wanted to look at and informed his head coach of those schools.
"I got caught in the hype of the recruiting game when I was in high school so I wanted to keep my recruitment low key this time," said McKeen. "All kinds of western and northern schools were coming after me, but I knew I wanted to go back down south. I was generally looking at colleges from Maryland to North Carolina... that region.
"It was really NC State and North Carolina that interested me. I had visited North Carolina in high school and I loved it down there. They were recruiting me now, but I don't think it's a good fit. It's more of a basketball school and I wasn't trying to mess with that... plus I got hooked on State."
The three programs that made the cut were West Virginia, NC State, and Virginia Tech. According to McKeen, all three had offered and he had visits scheduled prior to reaching his final decision.
"I was strongly considering West Virginia before coach Rodriguez left," he said. "He called up here and was wanting me to come out to Michigan for a visit but I decided not to do that. I also had a visit lined up to Virginia Tech for next weekend, but I called my coach and got that cancelled."
What did McKeen like about his NC State trip?
"The whole visit was great," he stated. "Everything was better than I ever expected. First and foremost, the coaching staff is great. You can tell they care about you and know what they are talking about. Everything they have at NC State is just what I want out of a football team. There is a great family atmosphere down there between the players and coaches. That surprised me because that staff hasn't been there long. I believe big things are going to be happening at State so it wasn't a hard decision for me."
Hosting McKeen was Wolfpack tight end Matt Kushner. "He's a good guy," said McKeen. "He really showed me a great time, and I was able to see what the school is all about."
Prior to leaving campus he met with Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien and gave a verbal commitment.
"I committed in my final meeting with coach O'Brien," McKeen said. "He was happy... I could tell he was. I sort of had let it out earlier in the weekend to coach Willis and coach Petercuskie so I don't know if it was news to him, but he was real excited. He told me that he was ready for me to get down there and get to work."
"I'm not sure how it works because I got a medical redshirt at South Carolina. They graduated some guys and are real young. They are looking for an older guy to come in, a high-motor guy like me, to come in and impact right away. They want me to come in hungry."
At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, McKeen expects to play strongside defensive end for the Wolfpack. He will likely have two years to play two seasons, and he will be arriving in Raleigh this summer with the mindset that he will be competing for a starting position. Most of all, he is glad the recruiting process is behind him.
"I've only got a few years left to play so I can't mess around," he stated. "I'm ready to play... I'm ready to get down to NC State and help the Wolfpack win some football games.
"It feels great to be done with recruiting... it's a relief. I 'm mainly happy all the phone calls are over with and now I can just finish up with school here. I feel like I'm going to be a part of something special down there. I can't wait to get down there."
That first game at NC State will be special to McKeen. The Wolfpack head on the road to face South Carolina in the season opener.
"[Laughing] Man, I know all about that game," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to it. Honestly, I have nothing but love for the coaches, players, and fans down at South Carolina. I enjoyed my time there, but I'm going to be going back looking to win the game as a Wolfpacker."