Philadelphia. PA (Sports Network) - K.C. Keeler anticipated the reaction that
was coming, but he was serious about his suggestion to Joe Flacco during the
quarterback's career at the University of Delaware.
Keeler said the next time Flacco threw a touchdown pass, he should run along
the sideline while pounding his chest and pointing at the fans.
Flacco looked at his head coach as if he had suggested he intentionally throw
"Coach, no way, I can't do it," Keeler remembers Flacco saying. "My brothers
would just beat me up. And my dad and mom."
Keeler has heard all the descriptions of Joe Flacco. Inconsistent (thanks,
Ravens fans). Not an elite QB (well, maybe look again). Dull (yeah, thanks,
Keeler, who coached Flacco for three years at Delaware before sending him off
to the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, has a different word for others to ponder
"That's what I think the media should start to understand about Joe - he's
refreshing," Keeler said from New Orleans, where Sunday night Flacco will try
to lead the Ravens to a victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl
XLVII. "He doesn't have those stock answers that someone's prepped him on.
He's going to answer honestly.
"He's just a regular guy. Married his hometown sweetheart. More interested in
hanging out with his family than going to a go-go spot. That's who he is. I've
said this many times, that I think Baltimore was such a great fit for him
because Baltimore is like a small town, and it's close for him. Green Bay or
San Diego or Dallas, it just would have been too far away from his family.
He's such a family guy."
Flacco caused a stir on Monday when he described the idea of next year's Super
Bowl being played in the cold outdoors of MetLife Stadium in his native New
Jersey as "retarded." Not one to seek out controversy, Flacco was raised to be
Still, he quickly backtracked on his insensitive choice of words. The stir
didn't linger long, either. Compared to so many other players at the Super
Bowl, Flacco isn't flashy, and maybe even a bit dull, as his father Steve
recently described him.
Flacco may not be on most lists of top NFL quarterbacks, but his results have
likely grown on even the Ravens' most critical fans. The team's 2008 first-
round draft pick - and the first signal-caller taken from an FCS school in the
first round since Steve McNair in 1995 - is the only QB to lead his team to the
playoffs in each of his first five seasons in the NFL.
This season's postseason run started with a home win over Indianapolis and
features road wins over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and then Tom
Brady and the New England Patriots, giving Flacco a league-record six road
playoffs wins in his career. He's thrown for eight touchdowns and no
interceptions in three games to spark the Ravens' AFC championship.
Of course, none of this surprises Keeler. Flacco led Delaware to the FCS
national championship game as a senior in 2007, and Keeler saw the NFL future
in Flacco before his strong-armed quarterback did.
"I can remember on that practice field knowing he was special," Keeler said.
"There were times I catch myself becoming a spectator because of some of
the balls he would throw. And I remember the Ravens coming to watch a practice
probably the middle of year or so - I think it was after we beat Navy - and
them saying that that was just like what they would want at a workout because
we were putting him through every throw. And you would just see Joe go throw
all the different routes with the tight ends and all different routes with the
running backs, all different routes with the wide receivers.
"We threw the ball so much in practice, and you could just watch him, you
know, that brilliant arm, that quick release, effortless. And the thing that
Joe possesses is so many abilities. I mean, first of all, he's closer to
probably 6-7 than he is 6-6 - he's a big man - he's about 250 pounds now.
He'll run under a 4.7(-second) 40. People are shocked at how athletic he is
for a big man. But the thing that I think makes him special is he just has
this calmness about him. He's not afraid to fail."
Flacco grew up grounded alongside four brothers and a sister in a tight-knit
family, living close to the Delaware campus in the South Jersey town of Haddon
Township, attending Audobon High School. He was drawn to the Blue Hens'
uptempo style of offense and considered joining Keeler's program before he
picked the University of Pittsburgh in 2003. A head coaching change ensued
after Flacco's first season in Pittsburgh, and then after his second season he
could see coach Dave Wannstedt had settled on quarterback Tyler Palko.
Wannstedt refused to give a transfer waiver to Flacco, and after Flacco
decided to go home and attend Delaware, he was forced to sit out the 2005
season and pay his way that school year.
He became the starter as a redshirt junior in 2006, survived some rocky play
and then flourished in '07. He cared only about winning games, but still put
up spectacular numbers, passing for 4,283 yards and 23 touchdowns against only
"I think it was a right fit kind of thing with him coming to Delaware," Keeler
said. "No question, I think the biggest influence on his life was his family,
and especially his parents (his mother is Karen Flacco), who did such a great
job raising him. I think we contributed to that, just like everyone who's
going to touch him along the way is going to contribute. But we got a guy who
had a really stable moral foundation in terms of being a great teammate, being
one of the guys and not being the superstar."
The Ravens, Keeler added, "questioned me about his leadership ability when the
draft came about. And I said this, 'All I know is, our team never panicked.'
And to me, they took on the personality of Joe. And when Joe needed to say
something ... we were playing Northern Iowa (in the 2007 FCS playoffs) and we
were getting run out of Dodge. I mean, we're getting run out, it's going to get
ugly quickly, it's 10-0 quick and they're just manhandling us. And I remember
Joe getting the whole offense together on the sideline, and it was in a dome,
it was really loud, you couldn't even think it was so loud, and he's hollering,
'Hey, someone make a play. Just make a play and we're going to be fine.
Somebody make a play.' And our left tackle cut loose one of their great
defensive ends, and he's chasing Joe out of the backfield, and Joe finds a
receiver 50 yards down the field and makes a play. And we settled down, we went
down and scored and we ended up beating the No. 1 team in the country at their
place by 12. So I've seen Joe when it's needed to jump in and take charge. But,
again, I think the greatest compliment that I could give him was the team took
on his personality. That team never panicked because they never saw Joe panic."
Keeler, fired in early January as Delaware's head coach after 11 seasons - a
surprising move considering his 86-52 record and three appearances in the FCS
title game, including a victory in 2003 - has spent the week in New Orleans
attending functions and making connections.
Not to be overlooked is that Keeler has another one of his former players on
Flacco's offensive line - Ravens rookie Gino Gradkowski, a backup. But Keeler
has spent plenty of his time on radio row this week answering questions about
the most talented player to come along during his Delaware coaching career.
"He knows how proud I am, he knows how the whole university is proud of him,"
"Is he an elite quarterback? In his mind, he better think he's an elite
quarterback or he shouldn't be playing the game. And I think if you look at
this, if they win, it could be the best start any quarterback has ever had in
the first five years in the NFL. He's a dropped pass away from going to two
straight Super Bowls. So it's really neat to watch the success he's had
because he's such a genuine person. He's what you want your son to grow up to
be like. And that's what kind of frustrates me a little bit when I sometimes
catch the Baltimore (radio) station when I've driving in and hear people down
on Joe. It's like, boy, this is who you want your superstar to be like."
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