Keenum: From practice squad to starter

Keenum: From practice squad to starter
October 17, 2013, 6:00 pm
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Keenum on starting: 'It's on now'

A little over a year ago, the Texans had a decision to make. And they chose John Beck.

That decision left Case Keenum off the 2012 Texans roster. Then, the other 31 NFL teams again passed on the University of Houston product – just like they did in the draft months earlier – and the Texans sent him to the practice squad.

Fast forward a year and a few months and Keenum, 25, is the starter as the Texans (2-4) head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the undefeated Chiefs in a game they need to keep their playoff hopes alive on Sunday. He’s never even been active for an NFL game.

“Yeah, it is real,” he said. “I have to pinch myself every now and then. It’s exciting. It’s what I wanted, what I’ve wanted for a long time, what I’ve worked extremely hard for.”

Keenum, the 6-1 quarterback, was waived before last season as the team elected to keep Beck, the veteran with more experience, as the third-stringer behind Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates. The Texans actually cut Beck in early October to add safety help and never added another third QB.

Keenum, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of college football, spent all of last season on the practice squad, trying to learn a very different offense than the one he ran at UH.

And, at times, he had his doubts as to whether he would ever get the opportunity to start an NFL game.

“Everybody has doubts,” said Keenum, who stood at the podium in the media work room, which is normally held for the head coach, coordinators and star players. “I think it’s a part of being human, just like we’re not all perfect. I think thoughts like that creep up but you just keep pressing. I didn’t let them affect me. I let them slide off and you just keep pressing, keep working, striving for what you want.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me I can’t do a lot of things and … too short, this or that, and you can’t believe a lot of that stuff, even if it’s coming from your own mind, doubts that you have. Just keep pressing, keep working. That’s what I tell all kids. I tell all high school kids, coming out of high school, if you want to go to college, there’s a lot of ways. You don’t have to be the biggest recruit. Even coming out of college, I don’t think you have to be drafted, you just have to be given an opportunity and be ready when you get that opportunity.”

Keenum went undrafted after his final season at UH, despite his incredible collegiate statistics. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and threw for 19,217 yards with 155 touchdowns and just 46 interceptions. He is the NCAA’s all-time career leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions (1,546).

He was granted a sixth year with the Cougars in 2011 after a devastating knee injury ended his season three games into his 2010 year.

“It’s little moments like this that makes those moments worth it,” Keenum said on Thursday. “It’s moving on though. It’s a small little celebration, I guess you could say. But it’s on now. It’s time to go work. It’s time to go help this team and it’s a big one this Sunday and I’m excited to go and do that.”

Keenum and Yates were told the news on Thursday morning, as were the rest of the Texans, who hope Keenum’s energetic style will help guide them to a victory. Kubiak said he decided to start Keenum because the team needed a spark.

“He’s fun,” said Andre Johnson. “He’s excited about just being out on the football field, even if you watch some of the things he did in the preseason, when he threw touchdown passes, he was celebrating, going crazy. He just has that thing about him and that’s a good thing.”

Offensive tackle Duane Brown said it’ll be important for the Texans to establish their running game on Sunday to help the young quarterback.

“He’s a young cat, so he gets real excited out there and I think he brings another element of his legs to the game,” Foster said. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.”

Keenum said he briefly looked through his text messages on Thursday to see plenty of congratulatory words from plenty of friends and former coaches, including current Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. He also said his family was scurrying to finalize travel plans to Kansas City.

After all, those are all the people who stood by him when he had those doubts and when he had to return from injury.
 
“I try to prove everybody right that’s believed in me,” he said, “my coaches, my friends, my teammates I’ve had, more than trying to play to prove people wrong.”