HARRISONVILLE, Mo. – Michael Keck isn't your normal high school junior.
Sure there are common things in his life like homework, a steady girlfriend and cruising around town with his friends on Saturday nights. But that's where the normalcy ends.
Not only is Keck one of the nation's most highly coveted football prospects, he also has experienced things in his life that nobody should ever have to deal with.
When Keck was in the sixth grade, he had to move in with his grandmother, Charlotte Keck, because both of his parents had drug problems. His mother would eventually recover from the addiction, but she's never fully taken over the role as a full-time parent and he didn't really want to talk about where his father is at.
That situation put Keck and his three brothers and sisters in a downward spiral that most 12-year-olds would never recover from. But then again, Keck isn't your normal kid.
He didn't let the difficult times stop him from greatness.
He moved in with his grandmother and with her support and love he dedicated himself to become the best that he could be. After a junior season that saw him rack up 147 tackles and 12 sacks and all-state honors, he now has scholarship offers from teams like Alabama, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Stanford and Wisconsin.
"She's pretty important," Keck said. "She took me under her wing and raised me, so I appreciate that. She raised another brother and two sisters. She took them into her house, too.
"I'm also really close with Bill Collins. He's kind of like my dad. He's a judge here in Harrisonville. He coached me since I was in second grade all the way back in flag football. He still coaches us on the basketball team, and I actually lived with him for a while, too. But if it wasn't for people like Mr. Collins and my grandma, I don't know where my family and I would be at."
The words come slowly and quietly from Keck.
Getting him to open up is harder than blocking him on the football field the past two seasons. When asked if his past was a reason why he's so shy and reserved, he could hardly come up with the words to answer.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe, probably."
Then finally after a brief pause, a crack finally opened and he quietly talked some more.
"I'm a pretty keep to myself type guy," Keck said. "I don't have a whole lot of friends, because a lot of people have (screwed) me in my life. One of my best friends up to a year ago started dating my girlfriend that I had been with for three years. I guess they're happy, so I'm not going to hold a grudge or anything. It'd be easy to be upset about things like that, but I've got a lot of good things in my life now. I'm in a good situation."
A very good situation.
College coaches from all over the place have been flocking to Harrisonville, a small suburban town south of Kansas City, to visit coach Fred Bouchard about his star player here in May. His team won the Missouri class 3A state championship and he's found a serious girlfriend that definitely makes life better.
"It's been kind of exciting, but also kind of stressful," Keck said talking about the recruiting process. "It's been pretty good stuff. If I ever have a bad day, I can go back and look at the recruiting stuff and it makes you happy. It feels good to have all this stuff there for you, but I'm just keeping a level head."
His coach plays a big part in helping him stay grounded.
"He's an awesome guy," Keck said. "I don't like to talk too much to too many people. He does a good job of relaying everything when he talks to coaches, reporters and other people. I talk to him about everything."
His coach believes Missouri holds a slight edge early on to land the pre-evaluation period Rivals100 selection, but Kansas State and Nebraska are also right up there and Keck does have a special interest in Wisconsin and Alabama. He plans to take an unofficial visit to Alabama on June 10th to check out the campus in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Wisconsin might also get an unofficial visit this summer.
"I talked to Chris Ball twice, and he told me I'd have a chance to play as a true freshman," Keck said. "I could get up there, get my work in and maybe see the field early. I know they're good – something like fifth in the nation good.
"But other than that, I know much more about the local teams. I've always been able to follow teams like Missouri (Andy Hill), Kansas State (Raheem Morris) and Nebraska (Kevin Cosgrove) since they're close to home."
Everybody around him has an opinion on where he should go, but being the rather independent one that he is, he's going to follow his heart, not what others tell him. Grandma knows where she wants Keck to go, but she's done a great job of supporting him and the process.
"She likes Missouri a lot," Keck said. "She doesn't try to steer my decision, she's going to let me make the decision myself and do what's best for me. I'm very glad about that because I have a lot of people trying to tell me what to do all the time."
Many people have also speculated that Kansas State might have the best shot at landing him because his friend and teammate, Zach Kendall, just signed with the Wildcats this past off-season.
"He's never been a big factor in my decision," Keck said. "He's not going to affect it that much. It would make me mad more than anything if he tried to push me too much."
Another interesting twist is that Keck is dating Kendall's sister. So that must mean Brooke Kendall is recruiting him for the Wildcats, too, right?
"Oh, no, that's not how it works," Keck said.
"She's saying the same thing as everybody else. She's supporting me all the way and not trying to push toward one school. There's a very good chance that wherever I end up, she will follow me to that school."
That's just the way things go for Keck.
He's never been much of a follower. He's a leader because life has taught him to do that. Many other people put in his situation wouldn't react the same way, but those other people aren't Michael Keck. He's special and it just takes a few minutes of being around him to realize that.
"Michael is one of a kind," Bouchard said. "He's not always had things easy and he's worked his butt off to get to the point where he's at now. There were many times where he could have just let things get to him, but he's not that way.
"There's nobody else like him that I've ever been around. Not only is he an amazing football player, but he's an amazing kid."