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Former Viking Keeler enjoys bowl experience

By Mark Martin
Sportswriter

As a redshirt freshman, former Ripley football All-Stater Caydan Keeler has yet to taste game action in the West Virginia program, but he is hopeful that getting out on the field is closer than ever before.

In the meantime, Keeler is soaking up anything and everything when it comes to Mountaineer football.

His latest experience came in Memphis, Tennessee where West Virginia defeated Army in the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve Day.

The come-from-behind 24-21 win finished West Virginia with a 6-4 record in a season that had many challenges due to COVID-19.

“The bowl game was great,” said Keeler, who was a Class AAA First Team All-State pick for Eddie Smolder’s 2018 Viking football team that reached the quarterfinal round of the postseason. “Army is a tough team and we found a way to win it late. It was a good way to start the ’21 season."

Keeler, a walk-on, is listed as a defensive tackle at WVU.

He’s been working the past two years with All-American Darius Stills.

“It was great,” Keeler said of being in drills daily with the Fairmont native, who has a tremendous shot at playing in the NFL.

His younger brother, Dante, is also a key member of WVU’s defensive line.

While the 6-4 mark and bowl displayed improvement from the 2019 campaign when WVU finished 5-7, Keeler admits this team wanted more.

“We didn’t have the season we set out to have, but one thing we did was improve,” said Keeler, who has earned a spot on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll and the Garrett Ford  Academic Honor Roll while majoring in sports management at WVU. “We had a top defense in the Big 12 this year (along with one of the country’s best five).”

The win over Army evened the series between the two schools at 2-2. It was the first meeting since 1961. West Virginia had originally been scheduled to play Tennessee in the bowl game, but the Volunteers had to opt out due to COVID issues. 

Brown's team defeated an Army squad that entered with nine victories.

It was the second-year head coach's first bowl victory guiding the Mountaineers.

Brown is now a perfect 4-0 in bowl games. He was 3-0 in postseason affairs as the head coach at Troy before making his way to West Virginia.

“He is great at running a program,” said Keeler of the young Mountaineer head coach. “He does a good job of recruiting also.”

WVU’s bowl win was part of a perfect 5-0 mark for the Big 12.

Before he graduated high school, Keeler, who was selected as Ripley’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, chose to continue his education and football career at the University of Charleston.

He had a change of heart, though, and wanted to give things a try at the college game’s highest level.

Keeler is happy to have made that decision.

“I’ve made a lot of good relationships,” he said. “I’m grinding.”

And Caydan Keeler knows the grind will one day be worth it as he continues soaking up everything gold and blue.