K.C. Keeler has had a rough two years.
The 1977 Emmaus High School graduate lost his father, Ralph, in December 2011. Keeler’s eldest brother, Keith, passed away after a battle with cancer late in 2012.
Then, Keeler was not retained as head football coach at the University of Delaware in January 2013.
“I got a phone call from (former Delaware quarterback and current New Hampshire offensive coordinator) Ryan Carty,” Keeler said. “Ryan called me and said listen ‘I’m not calling to make a comment about what happened (Keeler’s firing). You told us 1,000 times you’re measured in life how you handle adversity. Don’t expect any pity from me. You need to follow the lessons you taught us.’
“I thought it was very powerful. It’s one of the things I really emphasize when I coach my players. It’s easy to be the guy when things go your way, but how do you react when things don’t go your way? I had a lot of guys text or call with the same message. I think it’s one of the reasons why I want to coach again because I realized the impact I made. For my players to call and say that, I thought it was very rewarding. Sometimes you wonder if you ever got through to them or made a difference and you know what, you actually do. It encourages me to get back and coach again.”
While returning to the coaching ranks is the end game for Keeler, who is 174-73-1 with eight national championship appearances in 20 years between Rowan (88-21-1) and Delaware (86-52), the former Green Hornets and Blue Hens linebacker is doing the next best thing: commentating.
After being let go at Delaware, Keeler, 54, has certainly kept busy.
Over the spring he was a consultant at Widener University, aiding first-year head coach Bobby Acosta — who played for him at Rowan and was an assistant at Delaware. Keeler was also a frequent speaker at various football camps and clinics.
Now, Keeler, an All-American who starred on Delaware’s 1979 Division II national championship squad, is still living a 24-7 football lifestyle, working as a content producer for NFL Films and as a commentator for ESPN3.
“I watch video tape from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. pretty much Monday through Thursday,” Keeler said. “Most Fridays I’m hopping on a plane to go to a game somewhere for ESPN. I’m working as many hours now as I did when I coached. Things have been great. I’m learning so much from guys like Matt Millen, Merril Hoge and Ron Jaworski.
“I’ve taken this time to sort of attack a lot of different ventures.”
Even though he’s still immersed in the sport as much as he was as a coach, commentating from a press box isn’t the same as being on the sideline every Saturday afternoon, he said.
“It puts air in your lungs to coach,” said Keeler, who coached Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco at Delaware. “That window of time between 1 and 4:30 on Saturday afternoon when you’re with your team in the locker room and on the field and after the game, there’s nothing like it. I always tell my players, coaching ain’t playing. Playing is special. Now that I’m gone from coaching, I realize that coaching is just about as close as I’m going to get to playing and I miss the coaching. I think I’ll probably coach again sometime very soon.”
Keeler is using his time away from the sideline to expand his knowledge of the game, biding his time until his phone rings.
“I’m working with some phenomenal football people,” he said. “I’m taking this whole year as an opportunity to learn. Really it’s been beyond my dreams for my ability to prep for my next job. I haven’t been sitting at home watching reruns … I’m coaching really. I’m living the same lifestyle as a coach, 24-7 football, now I’m just not worrying about if one of my guys missed a biology class or not.”