HOUSTON (AP) - Case Keenum limped into the team’s auditorium on crutches Tuesday, a bulky brace protecting his mangled right knee.
The senior quarterback for Houston was closing in on several NCAA career records when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament trying to make a tackle during a 31-13 loss at UCLA on Sept. 18. That came a week after he suffered a mild concussion in a victory over UTEP.
Keenum will undergo knee surgery on Wednesday, and he’s putting off any decisions about his future beyond that. He hasn’t ruled out trying to play one more season with the Cougars by asking the NCAA for a medical exemption. Or, he could turn his sights to next year’s NFL draft.
“No matter which way I go, I’m going to push to get healthy as quickly as I can,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter where I’m playing. That’s not really the pressing issue right now. The pressing issue is getting healthy.”
NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt said Keenum’s stock won’t drop because of his injury, as long as doctors clear him in time for next year’s combine. And Brandt is confident that Keenum would get selected if he comes out.
“Obviously, the guy has something going for him,” Brandt said. “Is he going to become a great player? I don’t think so. But I do think he has the traits that lead to success, and I think he could possibly do it.”
One of the big lures for Keenum returning to school is the chance of becoming the NCAA’s most prolific all-time passer.
He has 13,586 yards passing with 107 touchdown throws. He’s the fifth-leading passer in Division I-A history and needs 3,487 yards to eclipse Tim Chang’s all-time career mark (17,072). He’s 28 TD passes shy of moving past Graham Harrell’s career record (134).
Houston coach Kevin Sumlin has tried to give Keenum as much information as possible as he mulls his options. Sumlin added that he’s told Keenum to make a decision only for himself, and not factor in how it will impact the team.
“In these conversations, you have to be very open and very blunt,” Sumlin said. “He has done so much for this program and for the University of Houston. I told him, ‘Don’t worry about that. You don’t owe us anything. This decision needs to be based on what’s best for you.’”
Keenum says he’s been inundated with calls and text messages from friends and family, from youth pastors to former coaches to players who’ve suffered the same sort of knee injury. Among them was Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, who tore his right ACL in the third game of the 2009 season, underwent reconstructive surgery and is playing again this season.
“He had some great words of encouragement,” Keenum said, “just kind of giving me a heads up of what’s coming, how to approach rehab and how to come back stronger. He obviously did, and I plan on doing the same thing.”
Keenum said he just finished reading Drew Brees’ book, ‘Coming Back Stronger,’ and thinks he’ll read it again as he goes through his tedious rehabilitation. Brees had shoulder surgery after the 2005 season, joined the New Orleans Saints and led the team to a Super Bowl win last season.
“He talks about coming back stronger, that adversity is opportunity,” Keenum said. “Obviously, I’m going to push as hard as I can, where I’m allowed to push. You see guys all over the country, in all different sports coming back from injuries.
“It’s just kind of depends on the person, it depends on how tough you are,” he said. “I’m going to see how tough I am. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m going to get through it stronger.”