Thursday, August 24, 2006


Sayonara, Sam

He looked way better in Maroon and Gold, but that's besides the point.

No one, including me, really seems to know what happened, but I will absolutely miss Sam Keller in a Sun Devil uniform. Whether or not he's the guilty party, I choose to take the high road (for once) and pay tribute to good ol' #9. I mean #2. #5? Whatever. Here are some of the things that made me a fan of Sam, in chronological order:

He chose ASU over Michigan. A storied tradition of tall, white QB's with NFL success, Sam spurred the Wolverines at the 11th hour and chose to wander into the desert. This is extra cool since Sam's father Mike sported the maize and blue while playing linebacker in the surprisingly quiet Big House. Sam gives a "screw you, dad!" in a moment of teen angst not seen since Eric and Lyle Menendez.

Day after Thanksgiving, 2004. Well decorated senior QB Andrew Walter leads the 8-2 Sun Devils into stench filled Tucson against the 2-8 rival Wildcats. AW goes down with an injury in the fourth quarter while the team is down by three scores and Sam nearly brings them back save a dropped 4th down pass, something for which Matt Miller will never be forgotten/forgiven. Going into a hostile environment and facing a large deficit isn't easy, but Keller got within 23 yards of having gone down as one of the top clutch performers in ASU history. He was the silver lining within an otherwise dark cloud of a day.

370 yards, 4 TDs, Sun Bowl MVP. The halftime score was 3-0 ASU, and while we were all baffled by the defense (or better yet where it had been all year), we were shaken by the first half QB play. Were those drives in Tucson simply flashes of brilliance in a pan of mediocrity? The 3rd and 4th quarters were a resounding "STFU" for any and all doubters. The lasting image of Keller that day was that after each touchdown pass, he could easily be seen flexing his muscles and giving a samurai-style bow to the Purdue bench. After AW's stoic Joe Cool routine, this display of bravado was a welcome sight. We would be in good hands come 2005.

September 10, 2005: Keller proves he's for real. It's easy to light up Arizona, Purdue, and Temple, but here come the Tigahs. In the game moved from Baton Rouge to Tempe (thanks Katrina) Sam strutted his stuff against a defense that will have over a dozen of the guys occupying the two deep on NFL rosters. 461 yards and four TD passes were almost enough to overcome the special teams implosion clinic put on by the Devils, which included a blocked field goal, a blocked punt, and a fourth and long converted by LSU's punter throwing a duck of a pass to a wiiiiide open receiver. We were considered by many to be the best one-loss team in the nation, and Keller was first or second in nearly every passing catergory. I hate Tom Osborne.

October 1, 2005: I hate Reggie Bush. For those in attendance, this game will be remembered for the sweltering heat and agonizing disappointment. For those who watched from their couches and sports bars, it will be remembered (at least for ASU fans) for Sam's 5 interceptions and the mysterious Derek Hagan handoff to a Trojan DB that led to the aforementioned agony and subsequent pain-numbing drink-a-thon. In the 3rd quarter of this game that espn classic never wants us to forget, Keller took a big-ass needle full of pain killer in his throwing shoulder, straight up North Dallas Forty style. One has to love his "I don't care if it falls off, I want to win dammit!" attitude. That may explain the 5 INTs, but many are quick to forget that he still got us back to a 28-24 lead with under 6 minutes remaining against a team that hadn't lost in 29 games. We were considered by many to be the best two-loss team in the nation, and Keller was still first or second in nearly every passing catergory.

The following week against Oregon, Keller stiff-arms Haloti Ngata. 'Nuff said.

Keller was never the same QB after the USC shoulder injection, but I'll always remember the good things Sam did in Tempe and not the (rumors of the) bad things. I'll keep a close eye on Sam now that he's in Lincoln and I wish him the best, but I have only one final comment on the Sam Keller saga: 19-0, BITCHES!

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