Drew Keszei thought 2016 was definitely the year for Homestead.
The quarterback spent the summer preparing for a hopeful state championship run, and his recruiting profile steadily climbed in the process. The second part was critical for his football future, but Keszei’s primary focus was to guide the Spartans to a historic season.
Win the school’s first football title: That was the dream for the senior.
During Homestead’s season opener against Northrop, though, reality had a different, and painful, idea.
Keszei scored the first touchdown of what he hoped would be a special year, but it also turned out to be his final trip to the end zone. An awkward twist of his ankle while getting tackled resulted in a broken right fibula.
“I messed it up pretty good,” he told the News-Sentinel. “That was the first injury I’ve ever had. It was tough, my senior year.
“During the summer and even junior year we grew so much together, and we were all looking forward to the season so much. Having that happen was a letdown.”
With a boot on his leg, Keszei watched the Spartans finish 9-3 and bow out in the regional final to eventual 6A champion Carmel.
Although Keszei spent the season on the sideline, he stayed involved in practice as a mentor for the quarterbacks.
“There are some occasions where a kid gets an injury like that and they disappear from the team,” Homestead coach Chad Zolman said. “What impressed me most was he stayed engaged the entire season. He was with the team, supporting his teammates. I really appreciated that.”
After Homestead’s campaign ended, Keszei’s rehab continued.
“At first it was a lot of rest,” he said. “Once the bone healed I was able to start squatting and keeping my leg strength up pretty well.”
Keszei’s next step is getting used to cutting, jumping and other explosive activities. He was finally cleared to run in mid-January.
Keszei will attempt to regain the standout athleticism he showed off last May during the Columbus Opening Regional, which is part of a summer camp series hosted by Nike. Keszei posted a record SPARQ rating for quarterbacks who competed in the Elite 11 phase. The testing measures an athlete’s speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.
Allen Trieu, Scout.com’s Midwest Football Recruiting Manager, told the News-Sentinel it was apparent Keszei had good athleticism in his drill work at the regional, and the testing backed it up.
“He maybe doesn't blow you away with his physical size,” Trieu said of the 6-2, 185-pound talent. “But he can make all the throws and went from off the radar a bit to on it with a series of good camps.”
Trieu thought the camp established Keszei as a Division I prospect, and the quarterback was already squarely positioned in Ohio University’s sights. He attended junior day in the spring of 2016 before committing to the program in June, passing up offers from Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan and Buffalo.
“I believe I visited twice. It was a perfect fit for me all around,” Keszei said, adding that the area supports his outdoor interests of hunting and fishing.
The draw for the Bobcats was obvious, too.
As a junior at Homestead, Keszei threw for 2,750 yards and 30 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions. He also scampered for 773 yards and eight scores while leading Homestead to a sectional title.
The ugly truth of college football is an injury sometimes leads to a pulled scholarship. However, Zolman said the Ohio coaching staff reached out right away to affirm the offer would be honored.
“That tells me a lot about their integrity,” Zolman said. “I’m excited for him. I think he’s got a real good opportunity there.”
Keszei will leave Fort Wayne for Athens shortly after graduation in May. The summer term begins in mid-June, and he plans to be a full participant in weight training, conditioning and 7-on-7 work.
“From meeting all the players and recruits, I’m excited to get there,” he said.
By no means is Keszei guaranteed anything at Ohio except for a shot. While Quinton Maxwell boasts six games of starting experience, Nathan Rourke was a successful quarterback in high school and performed well at the junior college level. Joey Duckworth and Deeb Haber are also on the depth chart. The competition will be tough, but Keszei said he’s ready for the challenge.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the disappointment of the shattered dreams he endured.
And once he signs a letter of intent on Wednesday, Keszei can officially look forward to his promising new reality at Ohio.