Faith and Football Lead MSU Athlete Through the Darkness
Sports| | By Nick Nunez
Only a junior in high school, Luke Keller was prepared to end his own life. The depression and anxiety disorders that beleaguered him were becoming overwhelming, and life outside of his own head wasn’t much more forgiving. Keller’s father left the family when he was just 10 years old, his grandmother (who lived with him) died of cancer, and his grandfather was in prison. It started to feel like suicide was his only way out.
One afternoon, Keller came home from school and began to mow the lawn when he became consumed with suicidal thoughts. Desperate and afraid, he spoke to someone he had never reached out to before: God.
“I said ‘God if you are real. If you are what people say you are, then tell me something because today I’m going to end my life. I need you now if you’re real,’” Keller told the Portsmouth Daily Times.
Then, Keller recalled, a voice told him, “I want you to follow me.”
Keller fell to his knees and began to cry, inexplicably feeling relieved of the burdens of depression and anxiety. His thoughts of suicide had vanished. Keller believed it was all thanks to God.
Keller entered his senior year at Valley High School in Ohio as a born-again Christian. As the starting running back for his school’s football team, Keller used his sport to demonstrate his faith and gratitude. After every touchdown, Keller knelt and pointed to the sky.
Unfortunately for Keller, some believed that the football field was no place for his faith. During a playoff game, an official told Keller that if he made the gesture again, he would not be allowed to play again. Keller was “completely devastated,” yet he decided that if he scored again, he would do the gesture regardless of punishment.
At halftime, his sister passed him a note that simply read, “Be patient and let God work.” Keller took his sister’s advice, scoring again without his signature gesture. However, when he looked up, he saw a touching gesture of solidarity. In the stands, most of the 7,000 fans in attendance were kneeling and pointing to the sky.
Keller was recruited to play football at Morehead State University in Kentucky after his eye-opening senior year. His resistance to adversity was tested once again when he was required to undergo ankle surgery at the beginning of his sophomore year. When he awoke from the surgery, he discovered that the doctor had accidentally operated on both of his ankles, keeping him off of the football field for longer than expected.
While preparing for his junior year, Keller broke his wrist and had to undergo surgery yet again. The surgery caused him to develop an MRSA infection—a disease caused by a bacterium that is highly resistant to antibiotics. His doctors told Keller that he would likely never play football at Morehead again.
Only a month and a half into his treatment, Keller got a call from his doctor.
“He said, ‘Hey, are you sitting down?’ I’m thinking ‘oh no, what else is going to come up,’” Keller recalled. “He said, ‘I just wanted to tell you that God has blessed you. Your blood work is perfect. It’s completely back to normal.’”
On October 10, 2015, Luke Keller got the storybook ending that he had dreamed of: he suited up for Morehead University and got to hear the roar of the crowd when he stepped out onto the field. Fortified by his faith, Keller’s foundation became unshakeable. Never again would he feel as alone as he did on that dark afternoon years before.