Utah quarterback Travis Wilson came out of the Utes’ 24-14 win over Utah State Friday night, reappearing on the sideline with his arm in a sling.
On the other side, Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton limped his way through much of the second half, playing through obvious pain despite sustaining repeated hits from the physical Utah defense.
One game crystallized two very similar careers. Both started as freshmen, showing flashes that suggested both could, perhaps even would be superstars.
The flashes reemerge from time-to-time, but Travis Wilson and Chuckie Keeton are both unfortunate reminders of the impact injuries can have on a career.
Keeton’s stellar 2012 after returning from injury propelled Utah State into the Top 25, and made Keeton a popular dark-horse Heisman shout-out before 2013 and 2014.
Both those seasons were shortened due to injury; after Week 2, he’s played one game less in the last three seasons than he did his breakout 2012. Watching Keeton play while obviously hurting Friday, one couldn’t help but fear for his 2015 campaign.
Wilson, whose career was threatened in 2013 after doctors found a preexisting cranial artery injury, initially looked his Utah days might be done Friday.
Matthew Piper of the Salt Lake Tribune first reported Wilson’s injury is unlikely severe.
Source close to the team says Travis Wilson has a sprained left shoulder, not separated. Expected back for Oregon. Maybe for Fresno State.
— Matthew Piper (@matthew_piper) September 12, 2015
Wilson’s 2014 was quietly solid. He appeared in all 13 games despite sharing reps with Kendal Thompson midway through the year, and finished with 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He also scored five rushing touchdowns, though learned pretty early to temper his enthusiasm for breaking free from the pocket.
Against Michigan this season, Wilson put together an efficient 24-of-33 night with a rushing touchdown. As he has in the past, Travis Wilson showed glimpses of being the breakout star the Utes need to compete for a Pac-12 championship.
But being healthy and confident are necessary for Wilson to make that transition from potential star, to actual star.
Keeton and Wilson serve as reminders of the game’s sometimes harsh reality, but also models of perseverance.
Speaking to Keeton specifically at Mountain West media days, he didn’t exhibit one ounce of self-pity over the 17 games he missed in the last two seasons.
On the contrary: Keeton said he relied on his faith to buoy him against such thoughts.
And, despite the missed expectations as a result of his injuries, Keeton has still made an indelible mark on Utah State football. He tied the program’s all-time career passing touchdown mark Friday as he continued to get up after taking repeated hits.
He’ll set the new record next week when the Aggies travel to Washington.
Likewise, Wilson should return in time for most of Utah’s Pac-12 slate, if initial reports are accurate. With the Utes in the Top 25 and thriving defensively, Travis Wilson could well be the catalyst for them winning the division.
What-ifs may follow Travis Wilson and Chuckie Keeton, but their respective ability to keep fighting is worthy as much attention as the lament for their injuries.