The Sam Houston State Bearkat football team dominated the gridiron last season, but who’s the man behind it all? The Houstonian sat down with the coach behind one of college football’s most prolific teams, SHSU head coach K.C. Keeler.
H: You have been at four universities over the course of your career. How would you say Sam Houston State is different from those?
A: There’s a commitment to win here that is impressive as any place I’ve ever been. It starts at the top with Dr. Hoyt and then Bobby Williams our Athletic Director. That’s one of the things when we recruit we always talk to our kids about is that if you want to go someplace to win, you want to go to a place where they’re committed to win. They’reH committed to win here. The other great thing is, in terms of our location, there might not be a better location in America for a college football coach to be than right here because we’re right here on the border of east Texas. We can get down to Houston, which has phenomenal football and Dallas is only two and a half hours away. We can also reach out to Austin and San Antonio in about three or three and a half hour radius, it is amazing how good the high school football is. So, a combination of the great high school football and the commitment to win here. I mean this is a dream job.
H: You’re going into your fourth year as the head coach of SHSU’s football program. When you first got on campus, how were you welcomed by the people?
A: I can remember my very first press conference and just the outpour of well-wishers and I came from a different culture, being back east, and just how inviting everybody was. I always tell the story about how we started off 1-3 and I was walking the dog with my wife and I hear a car pull up, and I’m thinking about my days back in the northeast, and the window rolls down and someone said “hey coach, how you doing? We’re just so blessed to have you.” So I replied “So blessed to have me? We’re 1-3!” She said “aww you’ll be fine.” And I’m like “My wife doesn’t even think she’s blessed to have me.” So, it just very friendly people who just love their football, and love their Bearkat football. I’ve been happy with the way the kids have come out and it looks like we’re going to open either Thursday night or Sunday. There’s a chance they could move the game to Sunday, which would be a nationally televised game. It will be the first weekend on campus, so we’re going to have hopefully an amazing crowd for whatever it is, either that Sunday or that Thursday, and rally just start off this new season in a positive way.
H: What kind of impact would you say football has here at SHSU?
A: From the Kat Krazies to the phenomenal band, and our alums coming out, we have a chance to possibly open on national television and there’s a reason why. They want the highest, highest, highest, level of FCS football to be represented. So, it’s neat. It’s neat what we’ve established here. What people forget is that 68 wins, I’ve won 34 over the last three years, but 68 wins in the last six years only Alabama, Clemson, and North Dakota State are in front of us in all of Division I football. There’s a reason why you win. There’s a
lot of good things going on here and a part is the support from our fans and student body.
H: With three years at Sam Houston State in the books, what would you say is your favorite memory so far?
A: It’s really tough because going back east and playing Villanova at Villanova was such a big deal and that was really cool because so many people from my days back there came to the game, and we came back and beat them. Winning the conference championship at home against Central Arkansas, and then having to go on the road and winning the conference championship last year. Sometimes your greatest memories are the ones when you go on the road because no one is expecting it and we just dominated them. You know, Stephen F. Austin. Anytime you play in the Piney Woods game, and then the way it went last year. I got my 200th win, and then you’re up 43-7 going into halftime with 404 yards of total offense. I mean the memories just keep on piling up. There’s so many that really are special, special times. Us fighting back and beating a very good Southern Utah game with Yedidiah Louis shaking about six guys off to break a bunch of tackles and going down for the touchdown. I can even throw our game against Chattanooga in there. Them fighting back and us having to make a play at the end of the game to win. I thought Chattanooga was a top four team last year. That was such a great win, and yeah I mean it’s fun when you get the water poured on you and you win a conference championship. I would even say that sitting with the kids watching the selection show, it’s almost a part of our culture. There really are a lot of great memories. The list goes on and on and I’m probably missing a couple. We have a lot of great memories coming up here next season.
H: What would you say are some basic rules and guidelines to follow to be a good Bearkat?
A: As a Bearkat fan I think it’s important to be passionate. It just seems that with all the winning that we’ve done lately, its really brought people together. It’s just amazing what winning has done for this university. I think this football program has really pushed what was a good university ahead going towards being a great university. All the things happening around campus, I tell the alums this all the time, there’s probably not a better time to be a Bearkat when you look at the $200 million plus of construction going around campus, and how well the sports teams have done, baseball being ranked in the top-25 in the country preseason. There’s just so many good things happening right now if you’re a Bearkat. Part of it is our sports program, but part of it is just look around here. You see the new dining hall, and you see the new dorm, and you see the new biology building, and you see the new nursing school, and you see the new engineer and tech building. There’s a lot of really neat things going on right now and I think this explosion is going to continue for the next five years. I came at a great time I feel like. I came during the glory years of this university and I think the glory years are going to go for awhile now when I look at this football program and what’s going on for the university.
H: Do you have any advice for the incoming freshman and transfer students?
A: Yeah, come out, enjoy, be involve. Home games here are special, they really are. We play at a high level, there’s a lot of enthusiasm. You’ll enjoy yourself and you do make a difference. Where you sit, there’s a reason why we put you right behind the visiting team, and the Kat Krazies, I mean they’re special. They get after it. After every win, we come over and we celebrate with the band, but then we make sure our kids are all thanking the student body. Yeah, and to start next season off against a nationally ranked team [University of Richmond] on a Thursday night or a Sunday night the first week of school, it’s going to be pretty cool. I mean this place should be absolutely packed and the energy should be amazing. It’s something I definitely think our kids will definitely feed off of.