The Final Play

After traumatic knee injury, Case Keenum has one more season to prove his talents.

T.O. Souryal, M.D., currently in his 18th season as the head team physician for the Dallas Mavericks, explains that no matter how advanced sports medicine becomes, there will never be an easy out with the recovery process.

"Rehab is tough, it has always been tough, it's always going to be tough," says Souryal, who adds that some athletes have returned to play within four to five months after surgery, but a bona fide recovery takes a full year.

If there is an upside for Keenum, whose father Steve says he had lived "a pretty charmed life" up until his injury, it's the time-and-place benefit of his situation.

In 2008 under first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin, Case and UH beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl — the school's first bowl win in 28 years.
Chris Curry
In 2008 under first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin, Case and UH beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl — the school's first bowl win in 28 years.
During the summers, Keenum volunteers his time as a huddle leader at FCA camps.
Chris Curry
During the summers, Keenum volunteers his time as a huddle leader at FCA camps.

According to the Mavericks' Souryal, ACL surgery has never been better than it is today. In terms of where Keenum is rehabbing, he's got that working in his favor, too, because the University of Houston is unequivocally linked with the Texas Medical Center, which is among the tops in the country. The once-anxious Keenum experienced this days before his procedure when Dr. Lowe told him, "Well, let's just say that I'm not going to have to study up the night before on how to do ACL reconstruction."

Additionally, former UH teammate and current St. Louis Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery, who tore his ACL three weeks before Keenum's mishap, has been back in Houston often to seek medical care. Keenum and Avery have rehabbed together, and that's made the healing process seem less arduous to Case.

In some ways, the surgery and the hours of rehab pale in comparison to Keenum's wait for the result of his sixth-year appeal to the NCAA. He felt like his grunt work in the training room, which his friend Hinson says really took off after he doled out some tough love to the depressed Keenum, didn't have a tangible goal because he didn't know if he was rehabbing for another year in a Cougars' uniform or an uphill-climb shot at the NFL.

On January 14, the NCAA granted him one last chance at collegiate greatness. The expectations have grown ever since.

Even though Keenum has yet to suit up in pads since his injury, the university is placing high hopes on the 23-year-old, who is the centerpiece of the school's 2011 season ticket renewal campaign. (Final sales won't be released until after this piece is published.) Keenum is expected to return as the starting quarterback for Houston's first game of the 2011 season, scheduled to take place at home on September 3 against the UCLA Bruins, the team Keenum was competing against when he got hurt.

Then there's the new stadium, which as of March had raised only half of the approximately $80 million needed to break ground. The state-of-the-art project, which UH athletic director Rhoades hopes will be fully funded before the summer, would help the university earn the all-encompassing tier-one designation that they've desperately been pushing toward. (The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently gave tier-one kudos to UH. However, Carnegie's thumbs-up isn't the all-encompassing classification that Rice, the University of Texas and Texas A&M can boast.)

In terms of a professional football future, which Keenum says would be his "dream job," he'll need to show zero ill effects from his repaired knee to be invited to the NFL combine, a prove-your-might camp for draft-eligible players. According to Lance Zierlein of Houston's 1560 AM, he'll also be required to boast a stronger arm, a bulkier frame and the ability to operate out of a pro-style offense.

As for another run at the Heisman Trophy, Zierlein says that's next to impossible. "[In 2010], there was a sense that he had some momentum built up," he says. "Now that that's been wiped out, it's going to be very, very difficult to get all of that back in just one year."
_____________________

A week after learning that he would don a UH uniform one last time, Case and Kimberly decided to get married. The wedding is slated to take place on June 11 in Abilene.

"Kimberly and I definitely got closer [after the injury], just with how she took care of me," says Keenum, who admits that playing football isn't the most important thing to him anymore. "I'm lucky to have found somebody who would love me that much and be there for me like that."

Caddell says that she used to feel pushed down on the priority list, but that the injury and Case's new viewpoint on life brought the two closer. "Prioritywise, everything changed," she says. "Football was everything without him even really realizing it. Now, he's learned that football is a game and it's fun and he loves it, but it's not his everything."

Though a pro career as an NFL quarterback is what Keenum is striving toward, he's not fixated on the possibility. That's why Keenum, following a hoped-for pro future, is targeting a career in coaching. According to UH head coach Kevin Sumlin, Keenum is already becoming a well-minded football tutor. "He stands back there and we have a lot of good conversations about what should happen [during football practice]," Sumlin tells the Press after a recent spring scrimmage.

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2 comments
Chris Lawless
Chris Lawless

OK I am in a giving mood. NCAA TD career record is 131 by Hawaii's Colt Brennan. ( Case has 107)Hawaii's Tommy Chang holds the passing yardage record, with 17,072 ( Case has 13,586).

No QB has 3 5000 yard seasons ( Case has two).

All reachable, and attainable last year too before injuries, but under-reported then too.

MGL_COOG
MGL_COOG

Cougar fans, get ready for an entertaining season. Get your tix while they last!!

 
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