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MCGILL: Keller Plays With Heavy Heart As Mom Tackles Cancer

Blake Keller.
Aug. 30, 2017

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.Blake Keller is from Bradenton, Florida. He is a senior on Marshall’s football team. He plays defensive end.

But, Keller is defined by this more than anything else:

“I’m a momma’s boy,” he said.

So, you’ll have to excuse Keller is he is a little emotional this Saturday, when Marshall hosts Miami at 6:30 p.m., the final regular season opener of his college career. When Keller runs from the Shewey Building to the sidelines with his teammates, he will not be able to look up in the stands and find his mother, Linda. She and her husband, Don, will miss Saturday’s game because Linda has another round of tests this Friday to determine if cancer has spread to other parts of her body.

Linda, 54, was diagnosed with breast cancer near the beginning of Marshall’s preseason camp, and she underwent surgery August 10.

“It’s scary, obviously,” Don said.



And that fear has been with Blake throughout Marshall’s preparations for the 2017 season.

“It’s on my mind every day,” Blake said. “I wake up and it’s on my mind. It hasn’t been easy, but she’s a really strong person. She has high spirits, which definitely makes me feel better about the situation.”

Blake said if he knew his parents were in the stands, he’d find his mom during pregame.

“She’s everything to me,” Blake Keller said. “She was always at every game, every practice. She’s pretty much the person I go to for everything.”

Don confirmed his younger son’s affinity for his mother, saying that between Blake and his sibling that Blake “has always been the more emotional of the two.”

While the Kellers hope for a favorable long-term prognosis, they are using this as an opportunity to encourage regular breast cancer exams.

“She found hers from a regular appointment to get a mammogram,” Don said. “We want people to know how important it is to get a regular exam. Something looked odd, so they did a biopsy and discovered there was some cancer.”

Blake, at 6 feet, 2 inches and 245 pounds, is one of two seniors listed as starters on defense (C.J. Reavis, at safety, is the other). Blake recorded 33 tackles (four for a loss) last season, and will be counted on heavily during his final collegiate season.

Blake promises to pay tribute to his mom during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Until then, he has a tweet pinned to his Twitter profile with these words in black and pink font:

“I never knew what bravery was until I saw it in my mom.”