Keys finds self a key piece of current, future receiving corps
Hayden Adams | Friday, November 29, 2019
It’s the season of giving thanks, and Irish sophomore receiver Lawrence Keys III has a lot to be thankful for.
“Honestly, I’m thankful for everything,” Keys said. “These guys, they’re a wonderful group of guys. I love them to death. I’m willing to do anything for them, because I know they’re willing to do anything for me. I’ve got their back, just like they have mine.”
A product of McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School in New Orleans, Keys saw no in-game action last season, serving primarily as a scout team contributor. However, this year, he’s become an important piece of the head coach Brian Kelly’s receiving corps, one that has become increasingly more important as the offensive line and rushing attack have deteriorated.
The 5-foot-10, 173-pound Keys now finds himself fifth on the team in receptions with 12 and seventh in receiving yards with 126. He has also recorded six rushing attempts for 46 yards.
However, Keys’ greatest gain has been in taking over primary kick return duties with the preseason injury to and midseason departure of wide receiver Michael Young. He leads the Irish with six kickoff returns for 116 yards, good for 19.3 yards per return. Keys credits his improvements this season to familiarizing himself with the offensive system so the coaching staff could put his talents to use.
“Honestly, it was just more of getting more comfortable with the offense and studying the playbook,” he said. “And that’s one big piece that helped me out this year was learning more of the offense and getting faster.”
Keys also praises the players ahead of him at the wide receiver position for helping him take full advantage of his sophomore campaign.
“The season, it’s been wonderful. It’s wonderful for me, getting taken under [graduate student receiver Chris] Finke and [senior wide receiver] Chase Claypool — those guys are wonderful,” Keys said. ”They’ve actually taken all the young guys under their wing. They help me out each and every day, and just leading as seniors.”
Claypool himself, when asked who would fill his shoes next year, mentioned Keys as a top candidate along with fellow sophomore receivers Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin.
Keys credits Finke in particular with showing him the ropes as he’s worked to find his way in his first two collegiate years.
“Chris Finke has shown me the way the most, in terms of learning the playbook, getting more comfortable on campus, and just everything outside of football and also on the football,” Keys said.
As for the game at hand, Keys and the receivers will look to capitalize on a Stanford team that is ranked 119th out of 130 FBS teams in giving up 282 passing yards per game. What’s more, the Cardinal (4-7) will be without senior free safety Malik Antoine and junior cornerback Paulson Adebo, the latter of whom has four of the team’s eight interceptions and leads them in passes broken up with 10 on the year. Keys said the team is locked in on finishing the season on a high note.
“Right now we’re just focused on practice, just getting better each and every day,” he said. “And when Saturday comes then [we are] just going to go out there and just focus on our process and try to win the game.”
The Irish have not won a game in Palo Alto in over decade, with their last win coming in 2007. However, Keys says the team isn’t worried about the past and is shutting out the noise in pursuit of a W.
“We just put everything to the side,” Keys said. “It’s a new year, [so] just going out there, give it our all and try to come back with a win.”
However, regardless of how the game plays out, Keys is thankful for the opportunity to be a part of such a tight-knit team.
“I’m just happy to spend Thanksgiving with these guys,” he said. “We had a long season and it’s close to coming to an end, but one thing about these guys is we’re one big family here, and we’re willing to do anything for each other.”
When asked what his favorite Thanksgiving dishes are, the New Orleans native couldn’t help but harken back to the cuisine that he remembers fondly.
“I miss it,” he said. “I miss some Gumbo, sweet potato pie, stuffing.”
Keys said he would leave the squash for Kelly, though.