Since stepping foot on campus at Ball State four years ago, quarterback Keith Wenning has rewritten nearly every notable passing record in school history. He has done it all while wearing a black and orange bracelet that serves as a daily reminder of the man who opened the door for his success.
“My high school football coach, John Reed, passed away shortly after my career ended at Coldwater High and I’ve worn a wristband honoring him since the day that he died,” Wenning said. “Having his name on my arm every day connects me to his memory, and that means a lot because Coach Reed was like a second father to me. He taught me as much about life as he did about football, and he helped me become the man that I am today.”
— Keith Wenning (@Wenning10) September 29, 2013
Under Reed’s guidance, Wenning, who played wide receiver and defensive back throughout the majority of his high school career, led Coldwater to a 49-4 record and two state championship appearances during his time with the Cavaliers.
“Coldwater, Ohio, is a small town that’s only about an hour away from our campus, and its football program has been incredibly successful over the years,” Ball State assistant coach Joey Lynch said. “Keith is a natural quarterback, but he didn't get an opportunity to play the position until his last year because of the talent on his team.”
As a senior in 2009, Wenning threw for 3,699 yards and 40 touchdowns while finishing 13-2 and state runner-up. But, despite being an all-state honoree and setting school and state championship records, Wenning’s only FBS scholarship offer to play quarterback came from Ball State.
“The fact that Keith didn’t start at QB until his senior year scared a lot of teams off because there wasn’t much tape,” said Lynch, who serves as the Cardinals’ recruiting coordinator.
But then, Reed believed in his senior quarterback and wouldn’t let Ball State’s coaches forget what kind of talent he could be.
“Coach Reed kept telling us how special Keith could be if we gave him an opportunity,” Lynch said. “The reality is that Keith probably wouldn’t have ended up at Ball State if it wasn’t for Coach Reed.”
Since taking over as BSU’s starting quarterback three games into his true freshman campaign, Wenning has steadily improved the Cardinals’ record during each of his seasons under center. Last year, Wenning led Ball State to a 9-4 finish and the team’s first bowl appearance in four years.
This season, Wenning has captained an explosive Cardinals offense that ranks among the nation’s top 10 in passing yards and touchdowns, while guiding Ball State to the team’s best start since 2008.
Now in his fourth year as a starter, Wenning is still trying to prove his old coach right.
“Being that he wasn't a highly recruited guy, I think that he has always felt like he had something to prove,” Lynch said of Wenning, who has thrown for more than 10,000 yards and 80 touchdowns in his Cardinals career. “Keith has incredible focus, the desire to be coached, and he works extremely hard every single day to improve himself and our team.”
Having already eclipsed 3,000 yards passing for the second consecutive season and thrown for more touchdowns than Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston this year, it’s safe to say the Cardinals' quarterback is no longer flying under the radar.
“All of the NFL scouts have been through here to see Keith, and he’s going to have an opportunity to play at the next level,” said Lynch, a former Ball State quarterback. “He has never lost sight of where he comes from and he knows exactly where he wants to go. Our team has truly rallied around Keith because of his toughness and work ethic.
“When people think about Ball State, I want them to think about Keith Wenning. Not just because of the things that he’s done on the field, but because of everything that he represents. Keith has applied the resiliency, command and leadership that he learned from Coach Reed to his role as our quarterback, and those characteristics have truly helped band our team together.”