The News-Times

State native Keating soaking in his final days at UConn

- By Doug Bonjour

Before the last few games, UConn’s Brian Keating has taken extra time to soak in the moment.

“I’m just appreciati­ng everything that UConn’s giving me,” said Keating, a long snapper from Darien. “The time spent in the locker room with the guys, and just being able to develop relationsh­ips with teammates, coaches, professors, administra­tive staff, the relationsh­ips and the experience­s have just been very noteworthy.

“I’m going to miss them, but I’m going to have the rest of my life to fall back on. It’s been a tremendous experience.”

Keating will play his final game as a collegian Saturday (noon, CBS Sports Network) when UConn hosts No. 19 Houston. That realizatio­n is still setting in.

“Right now, I’m just really focused on enjoying these last four days, which is kind of crazy,” Keating said during Tuesday’s call with reporters. “Coming in here I was thinking to myself, ‘Man, I have four years, I have the whole rest of my life ahead of me.’ Fast forward five years later and it’s getting to that point, ‘Alright, where’s that next opportunit­y coming from?’ ”

It’s a complex question. Keating, a semifinali­st for the prestigiou­s Patrick Mannelly Award, is one of the best at his position in college football. Not to mention he’s beloved in the locker room by teammates and coaches for his lunchpail mentality. That said, breaking into the NFL as a specialist isn’t easy. Only two long snappers were

selected in the 2021 draft, both in the sixth round: Alabama’s Thomas Fletcher (No. 222, Carolina) and Michigan’s Camaron Cheeseman (No. 225, Washington).

For now, the sport management major plans to spend his last semester of graduate school interning.

The Huskies are 1-10 this season and just 7-40 since 2017. Their only victory — 21-15 over FCS product Yale on Oct. 16 — came while Keating was sidelined four games with a wrist injury.

UConn’s of futility prompted a change in leadership. Jim Mora, the former NFL and UCLA coach, was hired as Randy Edsall’s successor earlier this month. Mora is expected to turn over most of the staff in the coming weeks.

Keating’s already had a chance to talk with Mora on a few occasions. He called Mora a “guy who knows what he wants to do.”

“Just being able to introduce myself, I feel like it’s the best opportunit­y for me heading out of the program,” Keating said. “I want to do my best to leave a lasting legacy and impression on the program. … I’m kind of just developing relationsh­ips because I want to be able to come back and support my former teammates.”

Keating also heaped praise on interim coach Lou Spanos and special teams coordinato­r Eddie Allen, who’s directed one of the better return units in the country. The Huskies rank 37th in average kickoff returns (23.2 yards) and 23rd in punt returns (11.5).

Freshman Brian Brewton has returned two kicks for touchdowns.

“I can wholeheart­edly say that there is no better special teams coordinato­r in the country, whether that be college or NFL,” Keating said. “There is no one that works harder than that man. He gets us the most prepared for every game, every situation imaginable. I know my teammates and I go into every game knowing that we’re confident in what we’re doing.

“He’s able to kick it back with us. He’s able to see how we’re doing as individual­s. He just respects us.”

Whatever happens, wherever he ends up, Keating will cherish his time spent in Storrs.

“Everything to me has just been so special,” Keating said of getting to play for UConn. “Growing up and coming to games here, I always thought of playing for UConn, but I never really thought my dreams could come true. … I was able to graduate, I was able to get significan­t playing time, I was able to achieve my dreams.”

He was able to leave a lasting impression, too.

“He’s a well-rounded student-athlete,” Spanos said. “He had an injury early on here, but it didn’t discourage him. He did his rehab, treatment and was always wired in, making us better. I can’t not say enough good things about Brian.”

 ?? UConn Athletics ?? UConn long snapper Brian Keating, a Darien native, will play his final game for the Huskies on Saturday.
UConn Athletics UConn long snapper Brian Keating, a Darien native, will play his final game for the Huskies on Saturday.
 ?? UConn Athletics ?? UConn long snapper Brian Keating during a game against Army on Sept. 18.
UConn Athletics UConn long snapper Brian Keating during a game against Army on Sept. 18.

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