By: Dalton Ray
A recruiting pipeline from Louisville Male High School to Louisville’s football team has flowed over the past few decades with names such as Chris Redman, Ibn Green, Michael Bush, Montrell Jones, Doug Beaumont, Dexter Heyman and Grant Donovan.
Earlier this summer, Louisville added another athlete from the high school that ranks third in country with all time wins. Keion Wakefield, a three-star receiver and fourth-ranked player in Kentucky by Rivals, pledged to Louisville. The senior wide out has hauled in 81 catches, 1,615 yards and 25 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior campaigns.
He will be making the move from outside receiver to slot in his last year of high school, the position he will be playing at U of L.
When asked why he chose Louisville Wakefield said, “It was truly the right fit for me. I’m comfortable with coach (Garrick) McGee and receiver coach (Lamar) Thomas. They finished in the top of their conference last year, and it’s a great school. I like the position I’ll be playing at and it just felt right.”
Wakefield was no overnight sensation or a late bloomer; his first offer came in the end of his freshman year from Kentucky. Over the next three years he picked up offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Louisville.
“Getting the scholarship from U of L was big for me because not everyone can get that hometown offer. When I first got to high school I was thinking ‘Ok I want to go far from home and experience something new’ but then as I got a little older I realized I wanted to stay close to home.”
Of all the offers Wakefield received from local schools, the one that meant the most came from his hometown. The timing of his decision to commit was important to him because he wanted to get focused on his top goals that lay in front of him this year.
“I wanted to get it done before the season so I can have that behind me and zone in on my last season. A state championship is what the team goal is this year like every other, we’ve been right there the past two years and getting over that would be indescribable. As a personal goal, I would like to win Mr. Football and be recognized as the top player in the state, but all I can do is go out and play.”
While he did have hype around him before hitting the varsity level, Wakefield said he can recall the exact game where he realized he was going to have to come ready every night.
“My sophomore year against Butler, second game of the year: that was the time when I knew I was going to have to bring it every day. Their corners Joe Brown and Tavaughn Morton really got into me and I knew I would have to come with my A game every night and put on weight. I started to grow up that game.”
Ron Wakefield, Keion’s father, is the defensive coordinator at Male High School and Keion has admitted that growing up as the coach’s son can be hard but it has helped a lot.
“He expects more out of me and he knows how to push me but he knows his limits. He’s not over the top or anything with me and on the field I know he’s coming at me from a coach to player. I’ve grown up watching film since he is a coach and played college ball at Campbellsville. That’s really helped me because film allows you to see what is happening, why it’s happening, and how. Because of that I have a higher football IQ.”
Being the local player on the team will help motivate Wakefield because he says he wants to, “go out and show everyone I can play at the highest level.”
In July, Male went to Hoover, Alabama and competed in the National Select seven on seven tournament with 31 other teams. Male would end up winning the championship over hometown Hoover and be the lowest seed, 11, to ever win, and the only school from Kentucky to win it.
“The night before I was just thinking, ‘man it would be crazy if we actually win this thing?,’ because of the level of competition and kind of being the outcast of all the teams there. Then the day of when I woke up I just had this feeling after looking at the bracket that we were going to win it. I just got everyone together and told them I know we can do it, but it’ll have to be as a team. After we won it was such a great feeling and it helped us so much mentally.”
He has many reasons for motivation to be successful and make it to the next level, but the real driving force behind Keion Wakefield is his mother. Wakefield lost his mother at the beginning of his eighth grade year.
“Being so young it was really, really hard. It puts everything in perspective and you realize the difference from life, football, school, everything. My counselor would always tell me I just have to accept it, and I really didn’t get it until last year. It’s a part of life and things happen. It makes you appreciate things a lot more. I always told her I was going to play Division 1 football. She’s the reason I do what I do.”
While Wakefield has been blessed both athletically and academically by getting into Male, he is still humbled to be where he is.
“I just tell the underclassmen to stay focused because I know the talent they have and the position they’re in here at Male is a great opportunity. I try to lead by example to show them how to do things, if I can set that mark in their minds that excellence is the expectation then they’ll pass it on after I move on. I think it’s weird I’m the role model now because I still look up to guys before me but my advice to the young kids is be better than whoever inspires you. If there’s someone who is looking up to me right now I want them to try and do better than me.”
Being a student athlete at Louisville Male High School isn’t something that comes easy, one has to carry themselves a certain way on and off the field along with taking care of business in the classroom.
“Academics are very, very important to me because you need a back up plan. At U of L I’m thinking about majoring in business or engineering because they have such great programs. I haven’t decided yet but I think it’ll be one of those two.”
Wakefield said Male has prepared him extremely well to handle anything.
“Male is such a good school with very high tradition. Athletically we’ve competed in some of the biggest games and competitions in the state, from playing in the Male-Manual game to games against St. X and Trinity for football and also in big state track meets. We’re on the big stage. Then when it comes to academics I feel I’m very prepared because this is a college prep school. I’m just looking forward to give back to the school because it has given so much to me.”
Growing as a player and as a person is what Keion Wakefield has done. Over the past four years, Wakefield has had to deal with a fair share of adversity: Losing in the state semi finals against Scott County, having a heartbreaking end to an undefeated season last year, and the worst loss of all by losing his mother.
Keion has also experienced absolute bliss over the past four years after beating both St. X and Trinity twice each in one season, having an undefeated regular season in 2014 and raking up Division 1 football offers.
Life is full of up and downs and Keion Wakefield is the personification of what it means to be a humble, high class student athlete who is living the dream of being able to play for his hometown city.