Collin Keoshian’s football career appeared to be on the fast track when he was recruited as a scholarship player by then top-25-ranked Brigham Young University out of high school in 2010, but the two-year path that has led the burly tailback to the 2012 Glendale Community College football team hasn’t featured much downhill running.
Keoshian redshirted his first and only year at Brigham Young University, where he got plenty of reps on the practice squad before deciding he wanted to play and go to school closer to home. Unable to transfer his BYU credits to UCLA, Keoshian ended up playing football at his hometown junior college, College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, last season, but found he didn’t fit into the Cougars’ plans. Needing to complete an associate’s degree in order to get back to a Division I school, as well as get back on the football radar, Keoshian found Glendale college to be the perfect environment to plot his comeback.
It was a well-researched decision that appears to be a match made in heaven for both Keoshian and the ground-pounding Vaqueros, who open Saturday at 1 p.m. at Compton College.
“The [COC] offense wasn’t working for me very well,” says Keoshian, who was mostly used at fullback and H-back in the Cougars’ spread offense. “They didn’t run the ball at all. I switched to Glendale because I heard they run the ball and me and my dad researched that.
“That definitely attracted me because I saw the pro offense and how they did I-formation all the time and just how many carries each running back got. It’s a great place for running backs. It’s just a great fit for me there.”
Without a reliable passing offense, the Vaqueros rarely went to the air last season and, as a result, had the second-ranked rushing offense in Southern California. Keoshian attended the Vaqueros’ final two games of the season, where the team rushed the ball a combined 110 times out of 147 total plays and was sold.
And, after having an entire training camp to work Keoshian out in his offense, so is Vaqueros Coach John Rome.
“You always look at a guy who has extreme size for a position and you wonder how he’ll play,” Rome says of Keoshian, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised.
“His work ethic in the weight room and on the practice field has been exemplary, so when we’ve put him in scrimmage situations so far he has excelled. He really looks like he could be the type of back who can carry the ball a bunch of times and gain a lot of yards and shorten the game.”
That’s big for the Vaqueros, who have much more depth at quarterback this season, but no clear-cut starter as of yet among the trio of freshmen vying for the job who are yet to be game-tested.
“He’s a real explosive player for our offense,” offensive tackle Steven Escoboza says. “He’s a big running back and we need that. We need someone who can really get those two yards when needed and he’s the type of guy we’re going to lean on to do that.
“You see him and you smile. He’s just a great player, we’re glad to have him on the team.”
Where Keoshian comes from, football is huge, to say the least, but his high school football was played on a bit of a smaller scale.
Keoshian was so dominant at the eight-man level at Santa Clarita Christian School — his 6,357 rushing yards are the state’s second most all-time in eight-man football, and his 102 rushing touchdowns are a state eight-man record — that he began to receive attention from BYU and other major college programs when a cameraman who had filmed some of his high school games compiled a highlight reel and uploaded it to YouTube.
“I still don’t know to this day who saw it on YouTube, but they told some of the BYU scouts about it and they watched it and offered me on the spot without even meeting me in person,” says Keoshian, who says he also got notice from New Mexico, New Mexico State and USC. “I definitely would have gotten a lot more looks if I didn’t commit so fast.”
Keoshian never played a down for BYU, but played against the Cougars plenty, getting daily reps on the scout team. His return to Santa Clarita in 2011 was met with some initial fanfare, but Keoshian never got a chance to showcase his skills as a ballcarrier. He is not credited with any carries as a member of the 2011 COC football team, according to the Cougars’ statistics page on the Southern California Football Assn. website.
“He’s played a lot of football, not necessarily on Saturdays,” Rome says. “In our opinion, he’s got two years of fresh legs underneath him.”
When Keoshian lines up in the backfield Saturday, it will be the first time he’s started for an 11-man football team since his Pop Warner days, but he says after practicing with his previous two college teams there is no great adjustment to be made.
“To tell you the truth, [there’s] not [a lot of difference] at all,” he says. “I’ve just been around football for so long, it wasn’t a huge difference at all.”
But it will also be the first time he’s relied on as a featured ballcarrier since high school and for Keoshian, there’s a lot on the line, as his goal is to parlay a successful season at Glendale college into a return to the Division I level at one of his two “dream” schools, USC or UCLA.
“He didn’t really want his career to end without in fact knowing if he could play tailback,” Rome says. “He wants to be a running back.”
If there’s any situation tailor-made to give Keoshian the spotlight, though, it would appear to be Glendale college.
“We run the ball here at Glendale, that’s what we do,” Escoboza says.
Adds Rome: “This is something that he really wanted to do and I think he’ll perform well.”