Chuckie Keeton busts a move


Nobody is safe from perhaps the quickest feet in the country.

Obviously defenders are at the top of Chuckie Keeton's list of victims, and he has been dancing around them and making them look silly since his first carry, when he was just 7 years old. Occasionally, if his teammates aren't careful, the Utah State quarterback will even throw some spin moves on them as he passes them in the locker room or to get down a hallway.

"It happens," linebacker Zach Vigil said. "It's annoying."

That's not the end of his list of targets, either. Keeton doesn't limit his inimitable jukes to just the football field or those associated with the program.

As part of his rehab from a knee injury that cut short his junior season a year ago, the dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate has also turned the mall into an open field and has been known to test his footwork against unknowing strangers.

"I'm very random," Keeton said. "Wherever I'm walking, I will randomly juke somebody. I do it to my teammates a lot, too.

"Trust me, I've run into a lot of stuff in my apartment. I hit my knee like three times the day after surgery."

Keeton's furniture has a higher success rate than most tacklers, and his knack for improvisation as a rusher has earned him a place as one of the few players in the nation whose games shouldn't be missed despite playing somewhat off the radar in the Mountain West Conference. It's his arm strength, accuracy and understanding of the game, though, that truly makes him such a dangerous weapon.

The Aggies didn't hesitate to launch a Heisman Trophy campaign this offseason -- his face is plastered on notebooks, and they launched a website touting his candidacy -- despite the fact Keeton is coming off an injury-shortened season and hasn't been hit since his elusiveness momentarily let him down as he scrambled for a first down on a broken play against BYU. They have no reason to believe that the senior won't be returning to the same level of productivity he had prior to the injury, when he had thrown for nearly 1,400 yards with 18 touchdowns and rushed for two more in just five full games, particularly because his relentless, tireless approach to rehab apparently had no boundaries.

Just about the only thing Keeton hasn't done as part of his recovery is get back to playing the video game "Dance Dance Revolution," one of the many ways he has kept those lightning-fast feet moving since he first burst down the right sideline as a 7-year-old, juking three defenders on a team named after the Packers.

"I got 'Dance Dance Revolution' with the whole pad and everything for Christmas when I was 9 or 10, and I played it so much I can still see the arrows going whenever I close my eyes," Keeton said. "That's kind of the foundation. It's bad, even now if I see one, I'll get excited and go try to play it.

"But it's probably been a year and a half. Not since the injury. That might be the test -- I know I'm back if I can do that again."

The real measuring stick is coming up Sunday night against Tennessee. A win could spring the Aggies into the national conversation and maybe restore the spotlight on Keeton, who turned heads as a true freshman in his first career start by nearly upsetting Auburn on the road in 2011.

Like any athlete coming off an injury, Keeton still may need to clear that last mental hurdle by stepping back on the field in a live situation and trusting that his body won't let him down. By now, though, he has been waiting and longing for that first hit, not to mention a chance to cut on turf instead of in the food court.

"He is a very tough-minded individual, and if he wasn't, he wouldn't have been able to do what he did at Auburn," Aggies coach Matt Wells said. "Now we have this injury, and he will need to make that first cut, take that first tackle and do some of the things like that to feel comfortable.

"But this is one thing I do know, they did not hurt his mind, and they did not hurt his arm. His arm is a weapon, and his mind is a tremendous weapon that is vastly underrated, in my opinion. To me, he has God-given ability and talent, but also what he has is a mindset and a makeup to be an elite quarterback in college football."

After a long wait and maybe a few innocent victims, Keeton is back now with a chance to prove that's exactly what he is.