February 24, 2012

Keating Making a Name for Himself at Roanoke

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

For his first three seasons at Roanoke, Jeff Keating (above) has played in the shadow of his legendary brother, Chris, who as the 2006 USILA Midfielder of the Year. The younger Keating is already surpassing most of his mentor's achievements, and there's just one more to go.
© Pete Emerson

When Roanoke head coach Bill Pilat sizes up the Keating brothers, he finds a comparison to the Manning brothers who play in NFL.

Chris, who suited up for the Maroons from 2003-'06, played the role of Peyton. He was the USILA Midfielder of the Year his senior year – the only 'Noke player ever to receive the honor – and was a three-time All-American.

Jeff, who's entering his senior season, has a third-team All-American plaque to his name.

"Chris was the big gun and everybody knew about him and we've got Eli, who's Jeff, and people say, 'Well, he's not as good and he's not as big and strong,'" said Pilat. "But he's pretty darn good, and he's starting to get the due he deserves."

Keating has no problem with Pilat's comparison, especially since he grew up in Chatham, N.J., – about a 40-minute drive to Giants Stadium.

"Growing up, I kind of idolized Chris and wanted to be like him," said Jeff. "Watching him in college was pretty cool. It was nice to see him progress through his career, and now I'm doing to same thing."

The younger Keating's journey wasn't quite as seamless as his more well-known brother. Whereas Chris came in and established himself on the Maroons first midfield line, Jeff bounced around a little bit. He switched back and forth between attack and midfield his freshman year.

Heading into his sophomore year, Keating had a stacked attack unit in front of him, so Pilat asked him to switch to midfield. Despite his brother's prowess at the position, Keating had a lengthy transition period.

"It was very difficult," Keating said. "I had never played midfield in my life. Freshmen year, he had me there half the year, and also sophomore year. I wasn't going to complain because that's where I was going to get the most playing time. I was willing to play wherever, but it was definitely a big transition for me. All that running and shooting on the run? It's a lot different than what an attackman is used to. It was a big change."

Pilat knew he wanted Keating on the field, especially since he had the same uncanny vision that his older brother had, and was impressed with Jeff's reaction.

"The great thing about him is he just did it," Pilat said. "He didn't complain. He could have been an All-American attackman his sophomore year, but to help the team, he went to midfield. He's definitely a team-oriented guy."

Keating talked to the older players on the team about the finer points of playing in the midfield, but he spoke with his brother if he needed a boost.

"Chris was always there for the encouragement," Jeff said. "He'd say, 'Keep your head up, and if you're playing, don't complain. You're helping out the team.'"

Near the end of his sophomore year, some of the younger midfielders were getting acclimated enough to the college game to allow Pilat to bump Keating back up to attack. With a hybrid midfield-attack style, Keating scored eight goals and set up two others in the Maroons three NCAA tournament games.

"He lit it up," said Pilat.

Keating played the entire year at attack last year and the results were predictable. He led the team in assists (32) and points (87), guiding Roanoke to the national semifinals – the same high-water mark that his older brother achieved. And another funny thing has happened during the course of Jeff's career.

He has started to eclipse all of Chris' marks.

In the season opening game against St. Mary's last weekend, Keating's three-goal, one-assist afternoon moved Jeff into 10th place on the Maroons' all-time scoring list with 197 – one ahead of his mentor. The younger Keating already has more goals (120 to 106) and will surpass his brother's assist mark midway through this year.

Still, as Eli well knows, it's never easy to eclipse your brother's legacy. The only way to do it is to have one more championship.

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