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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Football

Journey continues for Keenum


Senior quarterback Case Keenum is the leader in many passing categories in the UH record books. In his final collegiate season he has an opportunity to knock out several NCAA records. He is also considered to be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. | File Photo/The Daily Cougar

Senior quarterback Case Keenum is the leader in many passing categories in the UH record books. In his final collegiate season he has an opportunity to knock out several NCAA records. He is also considered to be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. | File Photo/The Daily Cougar

Depending on the severity, the tear of an anterior cruciate ligament can potentially end an athlete’s competitive career.

A return to the field has not been a simple task for senior quarterback Case Keenum. He has had to draw inspiration from multiple sources to help him endure the painful rehabilitation process.

Keenum, a devout Christian and active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has found significance in the Bible verse Philippians 3:12-14:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on… Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize.”

“To paraphrase, it’s like forgetting what is behind and striving for what is ahead,” Keenum said. “That’s what I think the whole team is thinking. What’s behind us is behind us. The only thing we can control now is what’s ahead of us.”

In summation, Keenum and the Cougars are keeping a tunnel vision on what is directly in front of them. There’s no staring at the rearview, and no need to rehash the shortcomings of 2010.

For Keenum and the 18 other seniors, a coveted Conference USA championship paired with a win in a bowl game is the ultimate prize.

His improvisational skills and ability to recognize defenses at the line of scrimmage show his commanding presence on the field. But that sense of authority was taken away from him last year, and he had to sit and watch UH finish below .500 for the first time in six seasons.

“Those are two things that are not fun,” he said. “Not being able to help, and not winning. That’s something hopefully we don’t have to experience any more.”

Keenum sits atop the UH record books in almost every passing statistic, and this season he will be chasing history. Keenum is fifth on the list of all-time NCAA leading passers, and is exactly 3,486 passing yards short from eclipsing former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang as the all-time NCAA leader.

The “Case for a Heisman“ campaign is also still in full effect. He was picked as the eighth-best candidate in a poll on ESPN.com, and was selected as the 18th best player in the country by rivals.com.

“That means a lot to be mentioned in the same sentence as a lot of the great players,” Keenum said. “But if that’s happening, then that means the team is doing well, and that’s going to make me happy. That’s all I care about is helping my team.

“If I have to hand the ball off 100 times, then I will. Whatever it takes to win a football game. I want to do my best to put this team in a position to be successful.”

After graduating from Wylie High School in Abilene, Keenum was redshirted as a freshman. He is one of few players left over from the recruiting classes of former head coach Art Briles.

Keenum’s became an observer of games and practices following the injury, but was able to learn from a third-person perspective. Five previous years of experience make Keenum a player-coach of sorts.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin said Keenum is someone he can confide in personally and profesionally.

“He’s been here six years — he’s been here longer than I have,” Sumlin said. “I like our communication level. He’s a mature guy, we’ve been around each other for four years now. There’s a comfort level where I can talk to him not as an 18-year-old, but as a 23-year-old married guy about what’s going on with me.”

Keenum earned his bachelor’s degree in December and is enrolled in a master’s program. He took another step into adulthood by marrying his longtime girlfriend Kimberly in June.

“It’s like anybody’s college experience, you’re on your own and start making your own decisions,” Keenum said. “That’s when your character starts forming and you find out who you are.

“I’ve grown a lot, not only physically but emotionally and mentally. I grew up as a person and learned a lot. So much of it has been on the field, but a lot of it has been off the field.”

Assuming he stays healthy, Keenum is likely to receive the opportunity to prove his worth to NFL teams after the season. But he plans on being a staunch supporter of UH football for years to come.

“The city of Houston is ready to get behind the football program here,” he said. “It’ll be a snowball effect. What we get started now, and over these past few years it can continue grow.

“I think we’re doing something special. I want to come back 10 years from now, sitting in the new stadium in a suite, and watch us win another conference championship after back-to-back-to-back-to-back seasons. That’s where I think the program could be headed, and I hope it is.”

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