Wayward kicker finds a home with Mavs

JARED KEATING TOOK THE LONG WAY to Mesa State College, but in his two seasons he’s become a reliable offensive weapon as the Mavericks’ place-kicker.

Jared Keating had hopes of kicking for a Division I program and getting a shot at the NFL.

Although the Mesa State College senior didn’t get a chance at a Division I program, he may still get a chance in the NFL.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Keating said. “I tell people I couldn’t have come to a better school. I love this team. Everybody works their butt off for each other.”

Keating had a hard time finding a college out of Cody, Wyo., that would give him a full scholarship.

That’s why he went to Delaware State University.

Keating redshirted his first year at the Division I-AA school, stuck around and shared kicking duties with a senior in 2003. The highlight of the season was a making a school-record 54-yard field goal. That record still stands, according to the school’s record book.

“I had a lot of adrenaline after that,” he said. “I told the other kicker to kick off.”

During the season, the coach was let go, Keating said, and many players left at the end of the season.

Keating decided it was best for him to leave as well.

“I sat down and weighed the pros and cons and the cons outweighed the pros for sure,” he said.

Keating moved across the country and enrolled at Citrus (Calif.) Junior College with a friend. Keating made all-conference for the conference champions and finished his associates degree in one semester there. He was receiving interest from Division I programs Nevada, Houston and Dartmouth, but was ineligible to transfer because he didn’t complete two semesters at the junior college.

The frustrated Keating was planning on continuing education to become a firefighter, but wasn’t ready to let football go.

“I thought I never gave myself an opportunity to kick,” he said.

So Keating started looking at Division II programs.

“I had a buddy of mine that went to Mesa State,” he said. “I heard good things about it and it was one of the closest schools. I called the coaches and eventually talked to (assistant coach Bill) Stafford. I was coming through on my way back home asked him if I could stop by and kick. I had already researched the team and saw they lost their kicker.”

Keating looked into Missouri Western State University, a Division II program in St. Joseph, Mo., but the coach told him he would be ineligible.

Mesa State didn’t have scholarship money available for Keating, but was told he’d get some if he became the starting kicker.

“I was going to walk on anyway,” he said. “When they said I’d get some if I become the starting kicker, that put the nail in the coffin.”

He kicked a 53-yard field goal and led the nation in field goals per game with 1.8 last season. He made the Daktronics All-American team and was chosen the RMAC special teams player of the year.

“I wasn’t expecting all the awards,” Keating said. “I hadn’t kicked in a couple years (going into the season) and I wasn’t watching the stats.”

This year, he has made 9 of 10 field goals and is averaging 1.29 field goals per game.

“He’s been a real blessing for us,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said.

“He’s got a lot of NFL scouts watching him. He has good leg strength and is very consistent.”

As a result, Keating’s dream of kicking in the NFL some day is still alive.


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