Editor’s Note: Keys announced his commitment to the University of North Carolina on Aug. 29.
HENRICO, Va. (BVM) – There was an uneasy feeling among fans in the crowd when the Varina Blue Devils football team entered the second half of the Virginia High School League Class 4A state championship. Sure the team was up 14-7, but the Blue Devils faithful had seen this before and it didn’t end well the last time they had a lead in the state title game. Just over a minute into the second half, junior Kaveion Keys would help put those worries to rest.
While known for his defensive play at linebacker, Keys made one of the biggest plays of the day on the offensive end at wideout. The receiver streaked past his defender down the right sideline and was hit in stride by quarterback Myles Derricot for a 63-yard touchdown, extending the Blue Devils’ lead to 21-7, a lead they’d hold in the 28-21 victory to secure the program’s first-ever state title.
“It felt unbelievable,” Keys said. “I would just say everything that we went through that year for me, my first time being there, I was kind of scared of the new opportunity once I got there, but once I got to know all my coaches and players we all worked together it was like family.”
Now, the Blue Devils are playing for the first time as the defending champions, which means teams will be even more focused on knocking them down a peg. For Keys, he is confident that Varina will prove they’re even better than they were a season ago.
“We all know we have a target on our back again so we’re just trying to work even harder,” Keys said. “This team this year I feel like is talent-wise better than last year’s team, but we have to realize this ain’t last year’s team. We have to keep on grinding, keep on practicing to be the best. This ain’t no fluke, we’re trying to win back-to-back and build a dynasty here at Varina.”
One of the biggest pieces this year is of course the return of Keys, one of the top seniors in Virginia. Last season, Keys did a bit of everything for the Blue Devils, playing as an outside linebacker rushing the passer and dropping back into coverage on the defense as well as his wide receiver responsibilities on offense. His excellent play on the defensive end helped Keys earn first-team all-state honors as a defensive lineman last season, but the rising senior expects greatness every time he is playing.
“When I step on the field, I’m not trying to throw no shade at no other player, but I feel like I’m the best player on the field when I’m there because I know what I do,” Keys said. “I’m one of the best players in my state and I’m confident saying that and I’ve got great teammates behind me every day saying hey this starts with you. I never discredit the work I put in because I love this sport and I’ve got to thank God every day because God blessed me with talent that other people didn’t have.”
His play a season ago also garnered plenty of attention for the football star, as he earned his first Division I offer from the in-state University of Virginia just prior to the team’s state title game.
— Kaveion Keys (@KaveionKeys) December 9, 2021
Stock in the linebacker has only gone up from there as he has received 14 Division I offers and a four-star ranking in 247Sports’ Composite Rankings. For Keys it has been a whirlwind from where he was before last season.
“I’ve been so grateful,” Keys said. “This time a year ago I didn’t have any offers, but seeing everything go so fast, it’s really a blessing. I’ve got to take it one day at a time, but it’s great and I feel really blessed to be in the position I am today.”
Today, Keys is closing in on his decision which he is set to announce on Aug. 27. While he won’t say where he is going or which way he is looking, Keys does have an idea of what he wants in a program. The ultimate goal for the senior is to get on the field as fast as possible and contribute to helping a team grow on the field.
“I want to be a program changer on my first day when I step on the field,” Keys said. “I want people who want to see you strive and build relationships with you because you’re going to be there for a long time. The top three schools that I like have all been in communication with me and my family so I take all that in.”
Despite not showing his hand, Keys knows what a team is getting in him as a player. He is more than just a strong athlete, but he brings with him an attitude and maturity that programs look to build on.
“On the field, they’re getting a competitor, I will never quit,” Keys said. “I’m a leader. I will always have my brother’s back regardless of what the situation is. Off the field, they’re getting a smart person who really cares about people. If you put your all into me, I’ll put my all into you.”
But before he can help a college program with their future, he has one last season with the Blue Devils and he wants to make it a memorable one. After having such a strong season, there’s only one way to do that–winning state again.
“My expectation is for us to go back-to-back,” Keys said. “It’s going to be a tough year, we did lose a lot of seniors, but we’ve gotta realize we’re next up in line. I want us to win 13 games, 14 games, have a good playoff run and ride off into the sunset. That would be a perfect year for me. … There’s no doubt in my mind we should go back-to-back this year.”
Once his final season at Varina is done, Keys will take the next step of his dream of making it to the NFL. While he is excited, he also understands that there’s still more to do for him to be his best and he is ready for that too.
“Ever since I was little this has been my dream and I feel like nobody can take my dream away from me,” Keys said. “I want to be a first-round draft pick, I want to be in the league for a long time. I know with that comes a lot, I’ve got to work hard and be coachable but keep that same confidence I’ve always had.”