When I grow up: Willie wants to play football

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Willie wants to be a football player. He likes to play football because it is fun. He thinks it would be cool and he likes being on a team. Willie is 7 years old.

 

Willie Jones wants to be a football player when he grows up. He likes to play football because it is fun. He thinks it would be cool and he likes being on a team. Willie is 7 years old.

Football comes naturally to 17-year-old Blaine Keathley, and that’s one of the reasons he loves it so much. He grew up playing basketball because in Kentucky, basketball is the sport everyone plays, and he was good at it but it didn’t come naturally to him the way football does.

Blaine said his grandpa played football in college. He was a quarterback, but his dad played basketball, and he taught Blaine to play when he was 4. Later he asked his dad to teach him to play football, and he did. One of the benefits of sports, says Blaine, is that kids usually have a lot of anger and aggression and sports gives them a way to work some of that out naturally.

The Keathley family moved to Okeechobee a few years ago when Blaine was a freshman in high school, and his dad was offered a position as pastor of The Okeechobee Church of God. Blaine said he played most sports when he was young, including football, but when he got here he took a couple years off from playing football and just concentrated on baseball and basketball. He realizes that was a mistake, but when he started his senior year and had grown so much bigger and stronger (he is 6’5” and 205 pounds), he decided it was time to get back into it.

 

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Quarterback Blaine Keathley.

 

Last summer he was offered the position of starting quarterback on the Brahman football team, and he has offers from four colleges so far — Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati; North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mountain, N.C.; Warner University in Lake Wales; and Rockford University in Illinois. He hasn’t decided which school he will go to yet, he said. He and his friends will make their decisions after spring break.

He isn’t sure what the future holds for him in the world of football, but he believes his willingness to work hard and prepare for games will take him wherever God wants him to go. If it is part of God’s plan for him to someday make money playing football, he says he would love that. The schools that have made him offers are smaller, though, so he will have to work his way up, he explained. “It will be a process. I may have to switch it up and play tight end for a while like I did when I was younger, and that’s OK,” he said. “I am willing to put in the time and hard work.”

To Willie, Blaine says, “As a kid you don’t really think about it much, but as you get older, in middle school and high school, you will find people don’t work as hard as you do or don’t have the skills you have. Don’t worry about the opinions of others when it comes to your love for the game. Play because you love it, not to impress anyone else. Don’t play for girls or parents.”

Being in Okeechobee has made Blaine realize that football is bigger than him. “Play for yourself, but also play for your town. You’re part of a team. Remember to thank people for what they do for you. Stay humble even while you stay confident.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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