Livonia — It’s not uncommon to have a standout offensive lineman be a multi-sport player, but it is rare to see someone like 6-foot-4, 300-pound Keegan Smith of Jackson Lumen Christi flying down left wing during a recent hockey game against Livonia Churchill.
But, that’s exactly what Smith was doing, throwing his weight around while trying to cause problems in front of the net to create scoring opportunities.
Smith’s first love was hockey, but his future is still in football.
“My eighth-grade year I played Triple A hockey for Compuware, and I was actually deciding to quit football and concentrate on hockey for the next couple of years, but my football coach, Hall of Fame coach Herb Brogan, said, ‘Keegan, you’re going to regret this for the rest of your life,’ so I just stuck it out and played both and I’m really happy I did.”
Brogan has to be happy, too. Smith is the anchor on an offensive line that has helped Lumen Christi win three straight Division 6 state championships, giving Brogan nine state titles for his career.
Smith also showed off his skills on the ice, scoring 10 goals for Lumen Christi during his sophomore year last season. He's finding his stride this season after coming off surgery following football, saying he played the entire season with a sports hernia.
“In June I tore it, got the diagnosis then, missed the first two games of the year, then played straight through (the year),” Smith said. “I had surgery (in December) and missed the first three weeks of hockey, and then I was right back into it. I feel great now; I’m 100 percent.”
Smith, a three-star lineman, already has multiple offers, including Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green and Air Force while getting interest from Michigan State and Northwestern.
Smith took a visit to Western Michigan this month and has a busy schedule planned with a trip to Toledo on Wednesday, then to Buffalo on Saturday, back to Miami (Ohio) on March 5, then to Indiana on March 7, Iowa State on March 9 and finally to Kent State on March 16.
Smith also plans to participate at the Nike Opening Camp April 19 in Nashville.
“I train two times a week very hard at Total Performance in Jackson so they’re getting me ready for the combine, working on flexibility and footwork,” said Smith, who can bench press more than 400 pounds, including 225 pounds 22 times.
When asked what he felt his strength was as an offensive lineman, Smith replied: “Coaches want to know if I can pass block well enough because we’re a run-dominant team at Lumen Christi. I send them some clips of me pass blocking, and I’m good at it — don’t get me wrong — but I’m very good at run blocking.”
Smith would love to play football in the Big Ten, saying his dream schools would be Northwestern or Michigan State.
“Northwestern and Michigan State would be great, since my family are big MSU people, but wherever the best fit for me is where I’ll end up,” said Smith, who took two visits to MSU in the fall and another one to Northwestern. “They haven’t offered me yet. Really, I’m just looking for the right fit.”
Mike Wartella, who has been head coach at Lumen Christi’s hockey program the last 34 years, is grateful to have Smith playing on his team. Smith is among three players from Lumen Christi’s offensive line who play hockey, joining tackle Hunter Denton and center Ian Moran.
Lumen Christi takes on East Grand Rapids on Saturday in a Division 3 regional final at Patterson Ice Center in Grand Rapids.
“We have some state-championship guys who can skate a little bit, so they add a little toughness to our team,” Wartella said. “It’s been a tradition at Lumen Christi. A lot of our guys are three-sport athletes, so we typically have four to eight guys on our team from the football team, and it usually takes a little while to get their hockey legs. ...
“Keegan has said ... when he’s visiting some of the football schools, when they say to him, ‘You play hockey?’ he says, ‘yes, and I’m pretty good, too.’ I told his dad that I think he should keep playing since it helps his footwork for football. He moves well on the ice and we’re happy to have him.”