Hickman running back Justise Keith carries on family name, distinction

Friday, August 31, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
Junior running back Justise Keith stands during practice Monday at Hickman High School. Keith had two older siblings who excelled in athletics while attending Hickman High School.

COLUMBIA — When it comes to Hickman athletics, the Keith family has developed quite the reputation.

Caitlin Keith, who succeeded in academics and athletics while at Hickman, is entering her sophomore season for the University of Central Missouri’s soccer team. Alex Keith, a 2012 Hickman graduate, earned a scholarship to play defensive end for the University of Minnesota after a 12.5-sack senior season last year for the Kewpies.

Justise Keith is the youngest of the bunch. A junior running back for this season's Hickman football team, he now has the onus of carrying on the family tradition of excellence. His brother set a high standard on the football field.

“I feel extreme pressure to live up to the name,” Justise Keith said. “I’ve been living in my brother’s shadows since I was a little kid.”

Justise Keith and his brother are both talented football players, but the comparisons stop there. Justise Keith is 5 inches shorter and 45 pounds lighter than his older brother.

Hickman coach Arnel Monroe says there are also differences in their demeanor.

“Justise is a little more loose,” Monroe said. “He’s a comic; he loves to laugh.”

Justise Keith’s personality is evident. Whether he’s joking around with teammates, going through drills or running sprints (which he does barefoot), he has an ear-to-ear smile on his face. Monroe insists Justise Keith is just as serious as his brother when the situation calls for it, however. That’s something Justise Keith learned from his brother.

“My brother definitely knows what he’s doing,” Justise Keith said. “He knows how to hustle and knows how to play hard. That’s half the game right there.”

Alex Keith isn’t the only person who has pushed him to work harder, though.

He is part of a three-man rotation at running back and opened the season third on the depth chart behind senior Deven Larry and junior Bohannon Davidson.

“Being placed behind them at the beginning of the year makes me want to work harder to get out from behind them,” Justise Keith said.

His hard work showed up in a hurry. He took a handoff on Hickman’s first play from scrimmage last Friday night against Lee’s Summit North, and the play could not have gone much better.

He carried the ball 80 yards, running away from Broncos defenders on the way to the end zone, giving the Kewpies an early 6-0 lead.

“It felt amazing,” Justise Keith said. “I was ready for that situation and I executed it.”

Monroe was quick to credit the offensive line, but said Justise Keith did his job. The running back situation hasn’t changed, though.

“We’re going to try to get all three of them touches, and see if we can change gears that way,” Monroe said. “There are some things that lend themselves to different people.”

While Justise Keith considers himself a short-yardage back, runs like the one he had last Friday could get him on the field in more situations.

If he keeps running like he did against Lee’s Summit North, he will be running away from more than just opposing defenses. Justise will be running out from under his brother’s shadow and living up to the Keith name. 

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