VandyMania Interview: Kyle Keown

VandyMania talked with the Commodores' latest football commitment, punter Kyle Keown of Wayne County High School in Jesup, Ga. Here's the inside story on the recruitment of Keown, who had originally planned to walk on at Georgia Tech before accepting a late scholarship offer from Vanderbilt.

VandyMania: I understand that Vanderbilt has offered you a scholarship, but you have not signed yet, as had been reported in the Tennessean last Friday. What's the story there?

Kyle Keown: That's right, I've not signed yet. Coach Johnson told me, as of Thursday night, that he needed [some more information] from me, and wanted to make sure it was cleared up with the Admissions office, and that I should receive the papers by Monday. I'm guessing he probably sent them Friday, and I'll probably receive them Monday. But I have essentially accepted the scholarship.

VM: So you've definitely been offered, and you definitely plan to sign?

Kyle: Yes sir.

VM: Well, you must feel a little like the girl who didn't get invited to the prom, and then all of a sudden at the last minute she gets a date, right? For a while there, it seemed as though you weren't going to get a scholarship, and then Coach Johnson calls you out of the blue. What that was like?

Kyle: Well, I wanted to go to a med school, and I also wanted to play football. I was mainly interested in a good academic school. That's why I had trips early on to Harvard and Georgetown. Actually I could have signed with a couple of schools-- Charleston Southern offered me a scholarship, Western Illinois, and Buffalo-- but it was really about school. Georgia Tech seemed like the best situation at the time. But I wasn't real confident about signing things-- I decided to go on reputation and sign with a good school. So then I was planning on going to Georgia Tech, and Coach Johnson called me up. It was kind of a shock. I was surprised, and thrilled that he was offering me an official visit. I was glad I hadn't signed with Buffalo. It all worked out.

VandyMania: So you had turned down Buffalo, a Division I-A school, to walk on at Georgia Tech?

Kyle: I wanted to go to a better school. I guess there's a percentage of people that go to the pros out of football, but I just wanted to get a degree and a good school. I wanted to go to the best school I could get into. Georgia Tech was the best of both worlds. I could have gone to Georgetown, but their football wasn't exactly high-level, big-time football. Georgia Tech seemed like the best. I had an opportunity to start there and to get a good degree from there. It seemed like the best of both worlds until Vanderbilt came along.

VM: Tell me about your visit to Vanderbilt. What did they do for you? At what point did they make you an offer?

Kyle: From the very beginning, Coach Johnson picked me up at the airport. He asked me how my soccer game went, and was really enthusiastic that I was there. He took me and the long snapper out to eat at a really nice steak restaurant. His wife went along with us, and she asked me questions about my personal stuff-- we didn't even talk about football for a good bit of the time. They just wanted to get to know me better. All the coaches that I met were extremely nice, and straightforward, and didn't have any kind of an ego like some coaches do. They're just real laid back, straightforward, honest people. The visit went really well. I met all the players. I didn't actually get to see anybody play or practice-- that was another misquote that was in the Tennessean. They said I said it didn't look like any of the kickers on campus could punt. I didn't even get to see them play to make that judgment. It was just two separate statements that he put together-- I said I met all the kickers that were there... but I didn't meet any punters, so I said, it didn't look like I saw any punters. It wasn't a comment on their ability at all. But anyway, I met all the kickers and the people I'd be working out with, and they were a really good group of guys. Tuesday morning was when Coach Johnson made the offer, before I left, and I committed to him then.

VM: You punt, kick off, and do placekicks too... which part of your game is the strongest?

Kyle: Actually the past two seasons I've just done punting and kickoffs. We had another player on our team who did extra points-- he was a really good kicker, and should get some offers. I did kick field goals as well-- what happened was, my leg has a tendency to go straight, so my soccer-style field goal kicking wasn't too good, and I just stuck to punting at the end of my sophomore year. I was a lot better punter after I stopped [place]kicking. Then the coaches wanted to see if I could kick off straight on. They got me a special style shoe, and I did pretty well kicking straight on. Then they wanted to see if I could do some field goal kicking straight on, so I attempted a couple of 49-yarders the last two seasons, and did fairly decent at that. But I'm mainly just a punter. That's my specialty.

VM: At Vanderbilt will you try out for the kickoff job?

Kyle: I might dabble with it a little bit, but I don't expect to win any position except punting. I've just been kicking off and kicking field goals the last couple of months, but I know the kickers there are pretty good, or at least I've read that they are. I might try it, but I'm sure the coaches will decide that. I just mainly want to do punting.

VM: You're a pretty good student, I understand. What do you think you'll be interested in majoring in?

Kyle: Probably chemistry or biochemistry-- something in the medical field. I want to go into medicine.

VM: If there was one thing that sold you on Vanderbilt, what was it?

Kyle: It would definitely have to be the mixture of academics and the group of people there-- the coaches and players. I went to Harvard, and I was taken aback by the great group of guys that were there. The other schools I went to, I didn't find that anywhere else, until I went to Vanderbilt. And I was amazed that they could come close to Harvard, which is well known for their brotherhood. I was taken aback that Vanderbilt was top-notch like Harvard in that area. And football-wise, they're SEC, big-time football. It would be hard to pass that over. It was just mainly the school and the group of people there.

VM: Are your parents excited?

Kyle: Oh, they're ecstatic! They can hardly believe it. But it's kind of like, everything happens for a reason.

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