BIG EDDIE KEELE WAS kind of a silent voice on last year's BYU football team.
But no more.
Keele's silence had nothing to do with his performance on the field. The senior tackle did not allow a quarterback sack all season. He just chose not to talk about it and watched in the background as center Lance Reynolds and tackle Jake Kuresa took part in the media circus every day after practice and following games.
Nothing wrong with that.
But times have changed for the 6-foot-5, 312-pound blocker from Othello, Wash. Keele's always been chatty.
He's as upbeat as they come, always smiling and joking. He's as positive as one end of a battery terminal. You watch him around others and you get the feeling he loves being plugged in, like he can't get enough. He loves to issue barbs to BYU's defense in practice, calling people out, even The General, middle linebacker Cameron Jensen.
No, timidity isn't Keele's game, even though there's been a dearth of quotes for most of his career.
This past month, Keele became BYU football's "Strongman" when he won a competition initiated by conditioning coach Jay Omer. Omer created a multi-event test that includes a truck pull and giant tire flip when he arrived in 2001 from Georgia Tech. Past winners have been John Denney, Scott Young and Justin Maddux all defensive linemen.
Keele, who benched 505 pounds during the competition, protects the back of quarterback John Beck. And he takes that job seriously.
Today through Tuesday, the Mountain West will hold its annual football media day in San Diego. Keele didn't make the trip, but he didn't mind sharing his views on BYU's offense this past week as players prepare for two-a-days in August.
At these meetings, players from every MWC team will represent their schools and optimism rules. Everybody's got a chance. A year ago, nobody took TCU very seriously in the media and the Frogs ended up running the table. In July, nobody's a loser.
Keele is getting his lines in early.
Keele said his running mates on the offensive line are healed. "Dallas Reynolds is ready to go, Ray Feinga is the kind of guy who can miss a few practices and still come out and dominate he's so strong."
Both had shoulder surgeries this past winter.
"I love this offense," Keele said. "If you use it properly, it's unstoppable. We've got everybody back up front and in the backfield with Curtis Brown. It's made to spread the field and make plays and we plan on doing a lot of that this season."
The Cougars open up against Arizona in Tucson on Sept. 2.
Keele expects the Cougars' offense to be far more polished than a year ago. Simple things in execution, like taking a wider split as a lineman, were foreign a year ago. "It took almost to midseason or the end of the season to get used to taking those wide splits," Keele said.
Now, he loves it. "I know what I'm doing now. I know how wide I can split depending upon what kind of player I'm going up against. I can move seven or eight yards away from the guard. Just knowing that, understanding how to do that, makes a huge difference over this time last year."
Keele wasn't done.
He said BYU's defense might be young, but it is improved. The offense also plans on making a statement this season and if they can fling a gob of points on the scoreboard early and late, it can't help but lift up their brethren on the other side of the ball.
"We have the quarterback, the offensive coordinator and the weapons to make this offense click. It will be fun. We've got something for everyone."
Keele said BYU's offense got a lot of confidence from the Las Vegas Bowl, piling up three 90-yard drives on Cal, the Pac-10's No. 1 defense. "Cal's defense was by far the best defense we faced all year better than Notre Dame.
"If we line up and execute, there is nobody who can stop it."
There. Keele got it off his chest. It was pent up inside since the last game it's why he works so hard every day, balancing his time with workouts by doing summer basketball camps and manning a call center for a satellite dish company with his wife Jennie.
It's July the eve before all the hype starts for the 2006 college football season.
Hope springs eternal, nobody's lost a game and everybody like Keele and other athletes at the MWC meetings believe their respective team can go undefeated.
Hold on. In weeks to come, from Fort Worth to Salt Lake City and Fort Collins to Albuquerque, we'll be dissecting depth charts, lineups, records, schedules and those who are brave enough to be quoted.
Guys like Big Eddie.Folks, it may only be mid-July, but the game is on.