For the final segment of this summer’s question and answer sessions with the Bearkat football coaching staff, GoBearkats.Com gets up close and personal with head coach K. C. Keeler.
During his first season at Sam Houston, the Kats rolled up an 11-5 record, won the Southland Conference championship and reached the semifinals of the FCS playoffs.
Keeler’s coaching record of 185-78-1 at Sam Houston, Delaware and Rowan ranks 20th in total victories among the 597 head coaches now active at all NCAA levels. He is the only head football coach to take three different programs to an NCAA playoff semifinal appearance.
Question: Each member of your staff talks about what a family atmosphere you promote in the office. Why is that so important to you?
Keeler: We spend so much time together as a staff that it’s important that we have relationships with each other. We also recognize the commitments every coach’s family makes. I’ve always joked that being married to a college football coach is like dog years so I have 210 years in with my wife Janice.
I’m very conscious that we put a lot of time into this, that we as coaches spend a lot of time together and that our families make a huge sacrifice. So I try to make it as much like family as we can.
With everything from recruiting dinners to different social events to traveling to the Texas Tech game, I try to include the wives as much as possible in everything we do. Our players see and understand our coaches as something other than just the guy that blows the whistle.
Question: Speaking of family, how is your relationship with your wife and family important to you as a football coach?
Keeler: I think you need to have a best friend in this profession - somebody you can talk to. That is Janice. She also helps mentor some of our players. When we got here, she was very involved in getting the assistant coaches’ wives squared away with housing, doctors and all those kind of things. She is the center piece of everything and is very engaged.
A lot of times after a tough day and I go home and talk to her about dealing with a tough situation – say like with a player or something. She has such a great perspective. It really helps that I have a best friend I can bounce ideas off of.
Question: Would you call yourself an optimist?
Keeler: I’m definitely the glass is half-full kind of guy. That’s how I look at life. There’s so many times you get knocked down in life that, if you don’t have an optimistic view point to life, you’re going to stay knocked down.
When you get knocked down, the challenge is to get back up and what a great challenge to have.
It’s like when we were 1-3 last year. If I would have gone the direction of saying this team stinks and this is a rebuilding year, I would have lost the kids. But I think the players saw that I felt we could still do it and I believed in them.
The coaching staff fed off that also. So I think it’s a great attribute to always see the glass as half full. I can take almost any situation and understand the positive things that can come from it.
Question: Do you have a favorite saying or quote.”
Keeler: One of my things is that your measure in life is how you handle your adversities. That is something that is a constant theme with me. Every game, every season and in life in general, you’re going to face certain adversities and it’s not about getting knocked down it’s about getting back up.
Question: What is your favorite thing about Huntsville, Texas?
Keeler: I just love the people. When we were 1-3 last year, people would pull over while my wife and I were walking the dog and say “Love having you here” and “God bless you.” The people are so genuine and so appreciative.
I also love coaching the kids in Texas because they’ve been coached hard. There’s been a demand put on them from an early age --- football is important and this is how you treat the game.
Yes, it’s really the people in the community and the players you get to coach.
Question: How did you get started playing football?
Answer: I was the youngest of three brothers. They all played. Every one of us was the captain at the high school. Even my dad was a captain. I was the fourth Keeler that was the high school captain.
My dad was a youth coach and we always won. So that’s how I got started.
I was very fortunate to go to the University of Delaware where I played under a phenomenal coach Tubby Raymond. That whole staff was such a great teaching staff. As I look back now, that was the big thing I took away from playing for coach Raymond and his staff. They were ahead of their time and their generation in terms of fundamentals, teaching and having a system.
I had a great base from my family to my college experience of people who knew how to coach.
Question: At your first news conference at Sam Houston you talked about winning national championships. You are not one to shy away from big goals, are you?
Keeler: When I came here I knew Sam Houston had lost 93 percent of its offense and 10 of 11 starters on defense. Understanding this generation, I felt that I would lose that team if I starting talking about rebuilding. Rebuilding is for cowards. It’s the easy way out. My whole thing is about winning championships. That’s why I came here. I wanted to win sooner than later and do it with the guys in the room now. When you have that sort of attitude, it captures their imaginations. And they start believing they can do it.
Coach Keeler and the Bearkats begin the university’s 100th season of football Saturday at Lubbock against Texas Tech. The first home game is Saturday Sept. 19 with Lamar.
Tickets to all six home games at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium plus the 90th “Battle of the Piney Woods” presented by H-E-B at NRG Stadium in Houston Oct. 3 are on sale now at www.gobearkats.com and at the Sam Houston ticket office at (936) 294-1729.