Thursday, September 28, 2017

Three state products join UConn after tryouts; Keating living a dream

The UConn roster now includes 28 players from Connecticut with the three of the four players who made the team after a walk-on tryout being in-state products.

It was previously reported that former Notre Dame (West Haven) receiver/defensive back Justin Morehead made the team and he is listed as a DB. Jeff Woodcock, a linebacker out of Middletown High School, and Donevin O'Reilly who is a running back out of Glastonbury High School is joined by Quimonei Bell-Hunter, a wide receiver out of Marcellus (N.Y.) High School.

Speaking of walk-ons, I count three non-scholarship players from Connecticut on the two-deep chart. Darien's Brian Keating is the No. 1 long snapper and he is backed up by Brookfield's Jeffrey Sidebotham while Hamden's Kyle Williams, a former Hamden Hall standout, is the backup to Jamar Summers at cornerback. He moved up in the pecking order with a concussion expected to keep Jordan Swann out of action on Saturday against SMU.

Keating's an interesting story. The true freshman comes to UConn from the powerhouse Darien High School program. Keating made it onto the varsity squad and the Blue Wave went 37-1 with the only blemish being a 21-20 loss to FCIAC rival New Canaan in the state title game as a sophomore. Typically, the Huskies haven't had much success getting players from elite FCIAC programs like Darien and New Canaan but for as long as Keating can remember he has wanted to attend UConn.

"I had other opportunities elsewhere but ever since I started the college process, it was UConn No. 1 whether it was a scholarship or not," Keating said. "Coming to UConn, it is like a scholarship for me having the opportunity to stay in state, be able to see my family every week at games, going to such a great school, a top 25 public school in the country it is incredible. The football team is such a family, they brought us in and made us feel great."

Keating is a familiar face at UConn sporting events going to basketball and football games in Hartford, Storrs or East Hartford for as long as he can remember.

"I always came up to the XL Center for basketball games when Rudy Gay was in his prime," Keating said. "I have been coming up to the basketball games forever, I have seen all these national championship teams in basketball. My first football game was against Virginia so it was very touching to get my first start against Virginia, it kind of came full circle Just having the opportunity to play for UConn, represent this great state and all the people that live in this state, it is incredible and it is dream come true every day."

When UConn played Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, he wasn't able to make it out to the game but he made up for it in another way.

"I was painted all blue, my head was painted with the blue helmet with the block C on the side," Keating said. "Watching the games at the Rent as a kid, being able to come out on the field and watch them win those big games, it was incredible. I knew from that moment on whether I play football or not, I wanted to come to school here.

Keating proudly announces that he still has a Jordan Todman UConn jersey and there are photos of him wearing a Tyler Lorenzen jersey.

With starting long snapper Nick Zecchino back home in New Jersey dealing with some medical issues, it looks as if Keating will handle the snaps on the punts, extra points and field goals for the rest of the season.

"I don't think he will be back with us this year," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "He has health issues he is dealing with that he had to deal with in the spring. I think Brian Keating has done a really good job and he has taken advantage of his opportunity. You won't find a kid who bleeds blue more than that kid. That kid has been a UConn guy, he showed me pictures of when he came to games when the Rent first opened, he was about that high. We went and talked to him about coming as a walk-on, it is unbelievable. This kid is so passionate about UConn and UConn football. When I told him he was going to be the starting snapper at Virginia, his parents took the car and drove right to Virginia."



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