You have heard the cliché’ that if a coach had a team full of a certain player they would win every game. Eastern Illinois secondary coach Bobby Babich says for the Panther football team that player would be Keithan Hedrick.
At first glance of Keithan Hedrick’s stature – 5-11, 186 pounds – you would think Babich was talking about the wrong player.
Five minutes after sitting down with Hedrick and measuring the size of his character and heart, you learn that Babich may have undersold the redshirt freshman defensive back.
Hedrick grew up in inner city Chicago where crime and drugs are a daily part of life. Hedrick was able to overcome those obstacles and earn a scholarship from the State of Illinois. He chose to attend Eastern Illinois not as a football player, but as a student.
“I was fortunate in high school to earn a scholarship to attend college,” Hedrick says. “I wanted to find a good school for myself and Eastern Illinois was the right fit.”
Fast forward several months into his collegiate experience and Hedrick approaches the football coaching staff with what amounts to a life changing conversation.
“I thought Keithan was coming into my office to tell me he was going to quit the team,” said EIU defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni. “Instead the conversation we had floored me and made me think this kid must be crazy.”
The conversation showed the type of selflessness and character that Hedrick has which shows the maturity of a man, not a kid in his second year of college.
Hedrick’s talk with Bellantoni was about the fact that he wanted to provide a better life for his two younger brothers and move them to live with him in Charleston.
“I wanted to give Josh and Dillan a better environment to grow up in,” said Hedrick. “I wanted to take them out of those neighborhoods where you have to make daily decisions on which street you want to walk home on or which corner you need to avoid.”
That act of selflessness would make most people stick out their chest with pride and make sure that people knew what they were doing. To Hedrick it’s what he has been doing all his life. His real hero is his mother who has sacrificed much more than he has.
“My mom is really the one who I admire. She worked countless double shifts just to make ends meet,” said Hedrick. “Sometimes, because of her work hours, we would not see her, so I took it upon myself to look after my brothers. Moving them here is the same situation just in a different environment.”
This season Hedrick was able to make the travel squad with the Panthers team and he quickly became a team leader despite only seeing the field in four games in a special teams role. Hedrick’s coaches noticed the leadership qualities from the practice field to the sidelines.
“Keithan is a true leader on this team,” Bellantoni said. “When speaking with the members of our team in post-season meetings every one of them mentioned the type of person Keithan was and how that set an example for them to try and work harder. I see him not only being a team captain during his days at EIU but also a person who will be a leader in his community following college.”
Hedrick takes all the praise in stride as he is not satisfied with just being a leader in theory. He wants to be a leader on the field.
“I pride myself in trying to be the best at everything I do,” said Hedrick. “I want to be the best player I can be at Eastern Illinois and try to make the starting line-up. I want to be best student I can be and I’m currently on track to graduate in three years.”
With that sort of drive and determination it’s easy to see that Keithan Hedrick will be a success in anything he chooses to do in life. But to Josh, a freshman, and Dillan, a sophomore at Charleston High School, Hedrick has already been a success for giving them a chance at a better life.
Keithan Hedrick has been chosen as the Eastern Illinois University Panther Club Result of the LAIR Fund recipient for fall of 2010. Keithan is majoring in Applied Engineering & Technology with a concentration in Construction and has earned a 3.44 cumulative GPA.