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Eight-man football star bound for the big time, thanks to YouTube

Brigham Young coaches got an eyeful of Collin Keoshian of tiny Santa Clarita Christian School in Internet videos and offered him a full scholarship.

November 11, 2009|Kevin Baxter

The Brigham Young University football coaching staff had never seen Collin Keoshian play a down in person. Never seen him catch a pass, finish a block or make a tackle.

The only evidence they had that Keoshian even existed was a 4-minute 29-second video a BYU fan found on YouTube. But that was enough to convince them that they should offer the Santa Clarita Christian School player a full scholarship.

"I would say that's very rare," says Paul Tidwell, who coaches BYU's inside linebackers.

Rarer still because Keoshian plays eight-man football, which is played on a smaller field that is hardly ever a proving ground for top-level college prospects. In his nine seasons at BYU, Tidwell says, the school had never recruited a player from an eight-man program.

Keoshian is worthy of the exception. A 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior who can bench press 355 pounds, Keoshian has rushed for more than 5,740 yards, scored 113 touchdowns and made 255 tackles during his four years at SCCS, leading the Cardinals last season to their only Southern Section championship.

And he's not finished. Coming off a win over Canoga Park Faith Baptist, which had been the No. 2-ranked eight-man team in the state, Santa Clarita Christian is back in the playoffs this weekend, opening Saturday against Walnut Southlands Christian at a site and time to be determined.

In that 40-34 win last Saturday, Keoshian accounted for 32 points, made eight tackles, drove three kickoffs out of the end zone, dropped a punt inside the Faith Baptist six-yard line with 1 minute 8 seconds to play and recovered an onside kick.

Yes, he routinely puts up those kinds of numbers. But what BYU coaches saw on the video -- Keoshian hurdling a defender on one play and body slamming an opponent to the turf on another -- is athletic ability that's difficult to measure.

"And that was our goal," says Keoshian's father, Craig, a former Fresno State defensive back who, at 53, still has a handshake as firm as a vise grip. "Not to say, 'Hey, look, this is an eight-man football player. He can go D-I.' It was a football highlight film. The plays that he did set him apart just athletically.

"Collin has been blessed by God with [the] ability to play football. God's allowed this to happen."

Credit Santa Clarita videographer Brandon Chandler with an assist.

Chandler's video -- there are actually two, a 61-second clip and the full 4:29 version -- first got BYU's attention. Put together at Craig Keoshian's request from footage Chandler shot for the school's annual season-highlight video, the clips were packaged and ready to be sent to about 100 Division I schools when, in January, Chandler posted the video on YouTube just for kicks.

Fifteen months earlier, a clip from a television newscast showing Texas high schooler Sam McGuffie hurdling an opponent became an Internet sensation, attracting more than 2.5 million hits. Keoshian's two videos have drawn a modest audience of around 10,000, but one viewer was an avid BYU fan who called SCCS Coach Garrick Moss, asking for permission to share the video with the college.

That's becoming common, says Tidwell, who said he gets as many as 15 e-mails a day that include links to video clips.

"High school coaches are doing the same thing," he adds. "Coaches will call us to recommend eight kids and each kid has his own link."

In most cases, if BYU is interested it will follow up by watching a player in person. In Keoshian's case, though, coaches contacted Santa Clarita Christian immediately.

"That's how much they liked the video," Moss says. "They never saw him play a game. Knowing his size and the video, they offered him a full ride."

As unusual as that is, even rarer is an 18-year-old going straight to one of the nation's top college programs from eight-man football, which is played mainly in the West on tiny private campuses such as Santa Clarita Christian, a religious school with only 530 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

"It just doesn't happen. D-I? No, never," Moss says.

The coach could come up with only one other athlete whose story mirrored Keoshian's: Rashaan Salaam, a running back who played eight-man football at La Jolla Country Day School before earning a scholarship to the University of Colorado, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1994 as college football's best player.

Keoshian is already an All-American, admirers say, in a Jack Armstrong kind of why.

A soft-spoken straight-A student, "He's one of those kids who's good-looking, talented, he's got the cute girlfriend, has the nice car. You can be like, 'I hate that guy,' " says John Sanna, an SCCS assistant coach. "But he's the nicest guy. So you really can't hate him."

Keoshian even remembers to say thank you to the girls who bring water onto the field during timeouts.

"Collin's the only one who does it every time," one water girl said with a giggle.

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