I had the pleasure of interviewing Case Keenum.
Case is the player that everyone is rooting for. In his new book Playing for More (B&H Publishing Group; ISBN: 978–1–5359–3979–9; September 2018; $15.99), Case Keenum relives his journey From West Texas high school standout to NCAA record-breaker to NFL underdog champ to now the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.
After a discouraging first two years in the NFL, Keenum has emerged stronger than he knew possible.
Coming off leading the Minnesota Vikings to victory in what became known as the “Minnesota Miracle,” Keenum is prepared for continued success through his gratitude and determination.
Thank you so much for joining us! Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?
“This is my first season with the Denver Broncos and I am releasing my book, Playing for More. In this book I relive my journey from West Texas high school standout to NCAA record-breaker to NFL underdog champ — and share the personal and spiritual challenges and victories that helped me get here.”
Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?
“I feel that I’ve had my greatest amount of growth when I’m uncomfortable. It’s as if God has put obstacles in my way to force me to look at my life and decide what’s important.
“As a redshirt freshman at the University of Houston, I was competing for the starting job and for the first time in my life football became difficult. Up until that point, things came fairly easy. I won a state title with all my friends in high school. I was away from home for the first time in my life. And the people who were with me at the time didn’t enjoy being around me because I was all about myself.
“If I threw a pick (interception) in practice I was in a sour mood all day. I really felt isolated and wasn’t sure college football was going to work for me. That’s when I met team chaplain Mikado Hinson. He would eventually become one of my closest friends. Mikado woke me up. He said, ‘Dude, get over yourself. Remember who you are. Remember why you’re out there. You’re a child of God. Get out there and play.’
“After that, I was able to pull back a little bit and realize that I couldn’t judge myself based on every practice. I just had to relax and play. Guess what happened … I started playing a lot better. By the way, I didn’t win the job by our season opener. But I felt like myself again and was ready when I finally got the call.”
The concept of mind over matter has been around for years. A contemporary description of this is having mental toughness. Can you give us an example (or two) of obstacles you’ve overcome by getting your mind in the right place (some might call this reframing the situation)?
“Early in my senior season I suffered a major knee injury. Fortunately, the NCAA granted me an extra year of eligibility. My physical rehab was grueling. But the more challenging part was mental. I had to get my mind back in a place to compete on the football field.
“The school set me up with sports psychologist Dr. Robert Andrews. Dr. Andrews helped me visualize my first game, the first pass, the first time I’d be hit. He helped me address the fear before I had to get out there and play. By the time I returned to the field, I was ready to go.
“My first drive back we marched down the field for a touchdown — it was even better than I visualized.”
What are your “3 Lessons I Learned from My Most Memorable Failure”
“I earned my first NFL start in my second season, and although the team played very well at moments, we lost eight straight games. Things just didn’t go our way. As the losing streak continued, I just grinded harder and harder. I stayed late every night watching tape, trying to figure out something. None of it helped. In fact, I got too into my head.
“After that season, I decided to change my approach. I decided that at least once a week, usually Friday, I’d have date night with my wife Kimberly. I needed to do something I enjoyed and unplug from football for at least a few hours. I also decided to be smarter about film tape. I used to think all that mattered was more, more, more.
“Now I try to be efficient. Behind everything, I had to remember why I played. Yes, it’s to win games, but it’s really to do the best I can with the talents God gave me. When I put God first, everything else falls into place.”
What unfiltered advice can you give aspiring stars regarding how to avoid common mis-fires in starting their career?
“Don’t focus just on the results. The results will come. Your job is to work as hard as you can. When you play with that focus, the game comes easier. Even when I stumbled out of the block in my NFL career I knew God had a plan for me and eventually I would find my way.”
What is the best lesson you learned from your worst boss?
“I’ve had a coach tell me I wasn’t NFL starting material. I was thrown off balance at the time. But, I’ve learned you can’t let other people’s opinions define you. That’s not just for football players. No matter what you’re doing — whether it’s school, a job, your family — be true to yourself. People are going to doubt you. It’s your job to trust in your own abilities.”
What is one “efficiency hack” you use consistently in your life to keep your time and mind free to focus on your strengths and passions?
“One thing I try to remember all the time is to breathe. Sounds easy, right. I mean really breathe. Focusing on taking deep breaths re-centers me. That’s a big part of my game-day routine and I even incorporate it during games. It makes everything else on your to-do list just a little bit easier to accomplish. I think it can apply to any situation in life.”
All actors or musicians have sleepless nights. We have a term we use with our clients called the “2 a.m. moment.” It’s when you’re wide awake and thinking not-so-positive thoughts about your business choices and future. Can you describe a 2 a.m. moment (or moments) you’ve had and how you overcame the challenges?
“NFL free agency can be both exciting and daunting. After having some success in Minnesota last season, I knew I’d have options. But when the moment comes when you have to make a decision, it’s hard to slow down your mind and focus. Everything was actually really positive.
“The Broncos and I had strong mutual interest. But, you start thinking ‘this could be the final jersey I wear’. Hopefully I will play in this city for years to come and put down roots. Of course, I wanted to talk to my family and close friends before making a final decision. And wouldn’t you know, I had trouble getting hold of people that night. Didn’t they know I had to make a lifetime decision? How dare they go about their lives?
“Fortunately, I’ve learned some lessons in my career. I’m starting to realize when I overthink things, which means I just need to slow down, pray and remember God is taking care of me. When I was able to do that, everything came into focus. I knew Denver was the place for me and I knew we had to make that work. It was a stressful night, but I’m so happy with how it turned out.”
Nobody likes to fail, and we sure don’t like to admit we failed. Can you describe a moment when you confided your most closely-held business issues/problems to someone close to you, and how the conversation(s) helped you work through the issue?
“After I injured my knee at the University of Houston, I was really down on myself. I dragged Mikado with me into the football facility to watch the play again. The way Mikado tells it, he said he had to leave the room or he was going to have to fight me. He was so upset seeing me wallow in self-pity. Now, I don’t know if he was really going to take a swing at me. But that was the kind of slap in the face I needed.
“I was making it all about me and how unfair things were. I forgot about everything I had to be grateful about. As I said before, getting my knee healthy was one thing… I couldn’t get back onto the field until I got my head in the right place. Like he has so many times, Mikado helped get me back on track.”
What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?
“My new book, Playing for More, 18, 2018.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
- Twitter: @casekeenum
- Instagram: @casekeenum7
This was really awesome, Case! Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com