Keo on starting: ‘It means the world to me’

Keo on starting: ‘It means the world to me’
September 8, 2013, 9:00 am
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Shooting the Bull: A look ahead to Week 1

Upon his arrival to Houston, Ed Reed has been a leader for the Texans’ defense. The nine-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer helps the defensive backs in the meeting room, on the field and even helps the coaching staff.  

But after spending all 11 of his NFL seasons in Baltimore, Reed, 34, is in a new city, playing in a new defense. So when Reed has questions, he goes to Shiloh Keo.

Keo, 25, will make his first career start on Monday Night Football in San Diego as Reed is still recovering from offseason hip surgery.

“I have the utmost confidence in Keo,” said Reed, who hasn’t completely been ruled out of the game but won’t start. “Even when I do come back, he’s going to be playing. He’s a person that should play on this team, that will be on the field. I have the utmost respect for Keo.”

Entering his third season out of Idaho, Keo has played in 26 career games but has never had a start on defense. Instead, he’s been pegged as a special teams specialist.

“It means the world to me,” Keo said about his first start. “As a player at this level, you’re goal is to be a contributor on the field as a defensive guy, go play defense. It’s gonna be a great night. I’m excited. I’m gonna try to do my job to help contribute to a victory.”

In his short time in the NFL, Keo has predominantly been a special teams player. In fact, he was named the Texans’ special teams captain for the second half of the 2012 season. But in 2013, the Texans don’t have a ton of depth at safety. Reed isn’t completely healthy and rookie D.J. Swearinger and Eddie Pleasant are the other two backups.

Glover Quin left the team in free agency to join the Lions and for a short time before Reed was signed, Keo would have been the starter.

“As soon as I got the news that Ed was coming here, I assumed that I’d probably be a backup,” Keo said. “But then I got the news that, hey, he’s injured, so before anyone told me, I already knew I had to be ready because he’s going to be questionable and everyone’s counting on me to get the job done.”

Throughout training camp and in the preseason games, Keo has been working with Danieal Manning to form the starting safety duo, while Swearinger has been the extra safety in the dime package.

“(Keo is) just a much improved player,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “He got put in a situation. He knew from camp he was operating as a starter and did that through OTAs and through camp, and just responded, got better.”

Keo, a fifth-round pick in 2011, is much better equipped to be thrust into a starting role now, as opposed to a year or two ago. The difference, he said, is “night and day.” The biggest change, according to Keo, is in his maturity a few years into the league. He learned that from watching guys like Quin, Joseph, Jackson Manning and now Reed.

“You learn how to work,” Keo said. “And now it’s my turn. I’m the next guy up so they expect the same out of me as they would a six, 10-year vet.”