Juco DT Keels Hauling in Interest

Where does Penn State stand with the well-traveled prospect who is originally from Wisconsin? We caught up with him to get the latest.

Joe Keels has already made three stops on the junior college football circuit. Now he's looking for an opportunity to move up to the top echelon of the sport. After exchanging e-mails and phone calls with a pair of Penn State coaches, he may be on his way.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive tackle — currently at Highland Community College in Kansas — made contact with Penn State receivers coach Stan Hixon last week. Communication quickly followed with Lions' D-line coach Larry Johnson, who informed the tackle of Penn State's interest. Most of it was thanks to his 2012 film, which showcased many of his 12.5 sacks (fourth best in the NJCCA last fall). "Coach Hixon contacted me on Friday, and he said they like my film a lot, and that they were going to watch it with the staff," Keels explained. "Coach Johnson told me to call him right at 12 o'clock Tuesday. He told me everything they liked, and basically said they just need my transcripts to make sure everything is good to go.

"They said they like my pass rushing ability. I just feel blessed."

It's been a long road for the Bradford High (Kenosha, Wis.) product. North Dakota State College of Science was his first stop, but an injury set him back, ultimately leading to a medical redshirt in 2011.

From there, he headed to Minnesota and Rochester Community and Technical School in 2012, eager to get back on the field. His patience paid off, as once healthy and fully functioning, he thrived, making 42 stops and those 12.5 sacks.

The move to Highlands for the 2013 season, he said, came mostly due to the fact that the Kansas campus feels "homey." Where will his next stop be?

Western Kentucky has been in touch with the tackle, and interest from Arkansas and Oregon has trickled in recently, as well.

His addition to the Lions' radar is important. He plans to enroll at a D-I school next January. Penn State, meanwhile, is in need of a defensive tackle who is prepared to contribute immediately. The school has made a strong impression so far.

"Coach Hixon seemed like a laid back coach, and a cool coach," Keels said. "He knows football, and so does Coach Johnson, who I didn't talk to as much. I can't make a real read on him yet, but he seems like a cool guy, too."

What Keels can read, though, is the success Johnson has had. He expressed familiarity with a pair of former Lion linemen standouts — Cameron Wake and Tamba Hali — before going into detail about their pass rushing skills and Penn State's defensive track record as a whole.

"To me, growing up as a kid, they were one of the best defensive schools of all-time, and are known for defense and really good defensive tackles," Keels said. "Tamba Hali is probably one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and I love watching him play."

But that's not all he likes about the school.

"A degree from Penn State's resonates, and on top of playing, those guys can help you get any job you are qualified for," Keels said. "I like the academic side of it, and the football program most of all. Hopefully, I can get there on a visit, see the atmosphere, and maybe it will even be a great fit one day."

Fight On State Top Stories