Over the past two seasons, Taylorsville Tartars’ quarterback Ty Keyes has taken the world of football in the Pine Belt by storm. Through his freshman and sophomore seasons, Keyes accumulated a 30-1 record as a starting quarterback, with one state championship, two South State titles and numerous individual honors.
In doing so, the 16-year-old has caught the attention of recruiters and collected scholarship offers from several prestigious Division 1 college football programs.
In November of 2018, however, an ankle injury during the 2A South State title game against Bay Springs brought his sophomore campaign to an early end, forcing him to step away from the field and focus on his rehabilitation as his junior year approaches.
“At first, I think it was kind of a shock,” said Tartars’ head coach Mitch Evans. “But after it set in with him, he attacked his rehab and physical therapy just like I knew he would. He’s a competitor, and that’s what competitors do.”
“I got him about two months after the surgery,” said physical therapist Blake Sherman, DPT, who is working with Keyes. “Once he got to me, every day he came to work, he was pretty much what you hope for in any kid that you rehab. He came motivated every time, with the attitude that he was going to get better. So it was pretty much a breeze to work with him.”
Keyes said the toughest part of the recovery for him personally has been overcoming the temptation to rush the process and get back on the field. “Just the time taken in the process has been tough,” said Keyes. “But we’re focused on taking things slow and making sure I come back at 100 percent.”
Midway through March, the boot on Keyes’ right foot was taken off, allowing him to begin working toward regaining the speed, agility and footwork that allowed him to be such a dominant, dual-threat quarterback. Local trainer Derek “Spike” Richards has worked with Keyes throughout that process. Richards says his priority has been to rebuild the quarterback’s confidence on his right foot so that he plays as if the injury never occurred.
“The biggest challenge after an injury like that is just getting back to complete mobility and getting to where he trusts (his foot) so he doesn’t have to think about it on the field or wonder if it’s ready,” Richards said. “So on our end, we’re making sure he gets so many touches on it that it isn’t even a thought for him while he’s out there.”
As far as his potential goes, Richards believes Keyes is capable of doing much more than just returning to the level of play he was at back in 2018. As he continues to grow and develop, Keyes full potential could be well beyond what he has already displayed.
“His only limiting factor would be himself,” said Richards. “It’s not going to be his body or his athleticism. He’s special, and if he continues to work hard and fully commit to what he’s doing, he can be as good as he wants to be.”
Keyes is aiming to make his return to live action on Thursday, Aug. 22, when the Tartars travel to Scott Central for a rematch of last season’s state championship game, which was won by Scott Central, 21-7.