Photo/Zac Chamblee

It wasn’t too long ago Austin Keys sat in his living room with his mom and brother pondering the idea of playing varsity football at Seminary.

After playing junior varsity his eighth and ninth grade year with the Bulldogs, Keys temporarily hung up his cleats in order to work a job. He didn’t play a snap his sophomore year, but after some convincing from family, friends and coaches, Keys returned to the field for his junior season in 2018.

The 6-foot-2, 235 pound middle linebacker brought an instant impact with him. Even after missing a few games with injury, Keys finished as the team’s fourth leading tackler with 79 takedowns. He was an integral part of Seminary’s run to the Class 3A State Championship game in Hattiesburg.

Three months later, he sat in a room with Ole Miss coach Matt Luke at the school’s junior day. Keys remembers the conversation as if it happened five minutes ago.

“He [Luke] thinks I can be a leader at Ole Miss and start something new for the Class of 2020.”

So Luke extended Keys his first scholarship offer. Three days later, Southern Miss threw their hat in the ring. Soon after, Louisiana and Arkansas State pulled the trigger.

In the words of Keys, “going from no offers to a lot is fun”, but at no point prior did he lose faith.

“I kept telling myself that if I keep working in the weight room and keep my grades up, they were definitely gonna come.”

And plenty more are sure to come leading into National Signing Day 2020. Mississippi State is a logical suitor considering the Bulldogs signed one of Keys’ Seminary teammates, Nathan Pickering, last month. But more than teammates, the two are like brothers.

“He [Pickering] jokes around 24/7 that I’m not going anywhere but to Mississippi State with him,” Keys said. “We really wanna play alongside each other, and that would be the best thing that ever happened.”

That being said, Keys is keeping an open mind when it comes to his recruitment.

“I’m looking for great academics and a school I can call home,” he said. “And a second family and somebody that treats me like my parents do.

“Wherever God wants me to go, that’s what I’m gonna do. Whatever happens, happens.”