Keels' Patience Pays Off

With the opportunity to possibly play in the Big Ten with his cousin, Melvin Gordon, Highland (KS) Community College defensive end Joe Keels turned down some top schools in order to commit to Wisconsin.

He had big BCS offers from Alabama, Nebraska, Penn State and USC but those schools fell short in one big area for Highland (KS) Community College defensive end Joe Keels: they didn't have his family.

Cousins and a former teammate of UW sophomore tailback Melvin Gordon, the 6-4 275-pound Keels' academic paperwork finally cleared, allowing him to official commit to Wisconsin on Thursday.

"Talked to Coach A (Andersen)," Keels tweeted. "It's official."

Keels is the 15th verbal commitment to Wisconsin's 2014 recruiting class and the first junior college player. He picked the Badgers over the above offers as well as offers from Cincinnati, Iowa State, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Florida and others.

Originally from Illinois and attending Mt. Zion (Ill.) High School for three years, Keels played high school football at Kenosha Bradford with his cousin and UW redshirt freshman Vonte Jackson. His freshman year of college led him to North Dakota State College of Science was his first stop, but an injury set him back, ultimately leading to a medical redshirt in 2011.

"Joe always had the goal of playing major division 1 football," said Bradford coach Jed Kennedy, adding Keels broke his leg his junior year and was never 100 percent. "He is a hard worker and a kid with a good frame. We wish we could have had him for all four years."

From there, he headed to Minnesota and Rochester Community and Technical School in 2012, eager to get back on the field. Healthy, Keels made 42 stops and 12.5 sacks (fourth best in the NJCCA last fall). He transferred to Highland to finish up his coursework this December because he said the environment had a more "homey" feel to it.

Defensive backs coach Bill Busch, who recruited Keels, was at his school Wednesday to speak to Keels' counselors and coaches. Once everything checked out, Wisconsin was ready to accept his commitment.

Kennedy said Keels had thoughts of going to a four-year school after his first season of junior college, but decided to stick it out. Keels will have two years of eligibility.

"Obviously he made the right decision," said Kennedy. "He really exploded with some big offers."

Now he'll finish career at home, having three years to play two following the 2013 football season, and be able to be close to his mother, who has battled health issues since recovering from a stroke.

"The main thing is the family feeling, how I feel about the coaching staff and how they fit me," said Keels. "Wisconsin is the perfect place for me to contribute early and be close to my family."

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