Logan • The "Chuckie for Heisman" campaign - at least the PR part - is already in full swing this August.
The Utah State athletic department has put junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton's likeness on a trading card with his stats and high points of his career on the back, making the card available to local media as well as actual Heisman voters, all in an effort to get his name in national circles. (No, it's not for sale, if you're asking.)
One person who finds the whole thing surreal: Keeton himself.
"As a kid I was always playing NCAA and creating my own character, and now it's becoming a reality" he said. "It's one of those things that's really hard to express, because everything is happening very fast. But the guys around me are helping me deal with it. It's funny, because I think they think about it a lot more than I do."
In reality, Keeton is staring at long odds to win a Heisman, an award no Utah State player has ever gotten before. He faces at least four quarterbacks in his conference that could vie for it, not to mention a returning Heisman winner and luminaries from high-profile conferences. And, as you might have guessed, it's not really Keeton's style to cast more spotlight on himself.
In fact, Keeton said he hoped his rise in college football would help his teammates on offense get recognition, and he mentioned nearly every one by name in his press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Still, there's no doubting that Keeton's star is getting noticed: He's on the watch list for Heisman, the Maxwell award, the Walter Camp award, and the O'Brien award. After putting up 3373 passing yards, 619 rushing yards and scoring 35 total touchdowns last year, he can't really find a place to hide.
Except in the safety of the lockerroom, where he's a leader, but still one of the guys.
"It's remarkable to see, but at the same time, I got a team full of brothers and a lockerroom full of brothers that are literally just like my older brothers," he said. "They'll beat me down when I need it and pick me up when I need it as well."
Several players and his coach were paying him compliments at Utah State media day. Keeton was a hot subject for his importance to the team. Pressed for a comment on Keeton's quarterback supremacy in Utah, coach Matt Wells joked that Keeton "was the best quarterback in Cache Valley," but added he wouldn't trade away his signal-caller for any other.
"It's definitely a luxury [to have Keeton] because he understands the process of preparing for a game," Wells said. "He understands travel, on the road, opposing crowds, home crowds. ... I think he's only scratching his potential. He's got a long way to go to where he want to be, which I think is cool, because he holds himself to a really high standard."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon