Keegan Johnson is in many ways a natural team player. Although he started his athletic journey competing solo as a swimmer, he quickly found a home in sports with multiple players on a field.
“I started that really early, like six or seven-years-old,” he says, “Currently I am playing soccer, baseball and football.”
Currently a seventh grader at Urbana Middle School, Keegan has decided rec league football will be his main sport going forward — it’s just his sort of thing.
“I guess, you like sports that you’re good at right?” he says. “ I’m good at football and I just like running around, flying around the field hitting people.”
Keegan plays quarterback, wide receiver and also kicks for his team, and as he says, he is good at it. He hits his spots when passing to his receivers, and when playing receiver himself, he can get up and get the ball - “I’ve got good hands,” he says. He kicks the ball hard and accurately.
But not all of his skills came without practice, and there are areas where he knows he must improve still.
“Initially I wasn’t very good at throwing, or kicking so I had to work on those,” he says. “I would like to be able to move around in the pocket better and probably be able to read the defenses and blitzes.”
And so about a year ago, Keegan and his parents, Troy and Cindy Johnson, began looking for a place where he could begin more specific sports training. What they found was Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick.
“His mom and I are both division one, full ride athletes for swimming, and so we wanted a place that would work with him athletically,” Troy says. “Initially we found PFP because my daughter had tore her ACL in soccer, and so we wanted a place that would work on rehabbing her. Then I thought, ‘well this would be a great place for Keegan because of the attention they would pay him.’”
Keegan liked it immediately.
“I thought yeah, this is a good place,” he says. “They clearly focus on form and how to do it correctly and not just pumping out reps and weight.”
If that sounds like a mature and detail-oriented assessment from a 12-year-old athlete, that’s because it is, says PFP coach Travis Bewley, who noted it was that attitude and mentality that gives Keegan an edge on the field.
“When Keegan first came into PFP he was one of those younger athletes that seem to get after it early,” Bewley says.”The biggest thing Keegan has going for him again is that attention to detail and that work ethic he has harnessed at such a young age.”
By taking advantage of Keegan’s ability to work hard on the small stuff, Bewley says, they were able to increase his speed on the field significantly by just making adjustments to his running style.
“We took the time to work the sprint mechanics — his coordination, his rhythm, his balance,” Bewley says.
But Keegan isn’t one to shy away from putting in the hard reps when necessary, Troy notes.
“He’s one of the kids that will tell you if the workout is too easy,” Troy says. “He will go tell the coaches, ‘this workout is too easy, I need a harder one.’”
That’s lead to an overall increase in Keegan’s strength since he started at PFP.
“When he first started doing pull ups he had to struggle,” Troy says. “Now he loves to get pull up sets because he can do them now. He loves that challenge.”
And with that, has come growth in Keegan’s confidence as well.
“I’ve noticed on the field I am definitely a lot faster than a year ago,” he says. “I can definitely hold my own against some of the bigger guys now.”
His growth and success have earned Keegan the recognition of others at PFP too — he’s now been named PFP Athlete of the Month for May. It was a pleasant surprise, he says, in part because the past year of workouts has flown by for him.
“I feel like I have only been going for months, but I have gotten so much stronger,” he stats. “I was very happy. I have been trying to get that. I’ve been working hard.”
Working hard at PFP, and then playing hard on the field, being the best player he can be for the team, that’s what keeps Keegan motivated.
“He feels like he’s let the whole team down if he’s the one that makes a mistake or something. He doesn’t want to be that person,” Troy says. “He wants to be that solid guy who is always there.”
Keegan has thought a little about playing football in high school, but ultimately his goals are more focused on doing what he needs to do to get better right now, “so I can be a better teammate.”
That’s Keegan Johnson’s why. What’s your why?