Keisel: Set goals, challenge yourself

May 24, 2007

Before he was drafted into the National Football League and long before he won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Greybull native Brett Keisel was a struggling college sophomore at Brigham Young University whose football career appeared on the brink of collapse.

“I fell in with the wrong crowd, I stopped going to class, and I stopped going to practice,” he told the 33 members of the graduating class of Greybull High School on Sunday.

Before he knew it, his scholarship was gone. “I got kicked off my high horse,” admitted Keisel.

Fortunately for him, the “rest of the story” reads quite well.

His playing career, and education, resumed — but it was at a junior college, Snow College.

He made it back to BYU, enjoyed a stellar ending to his collegiate career and was drafted by the Steelers.

Today he’s the starting defensive end for the Steelers, dreaming not only of getting the Steelers back in the playoffs and winning another Super Bowl but of making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

A free agent last offseason, he inked a four-year, multi-million-dollar extension to stay with the Steelers.

Keisel told the graduates that he was able to turn his life around by setting goals and challenging himself.

“The only thing you can control,” he said, “is how hard you are going to work.”

Keisel acknowledged that he was nervous early in his address.

Just 10 years earlier, he had been in the same gym, getting his diploma with the rest of the Class of 1997.

“I play a brutal game against some of the biggest, angriest, meanest and smelliest guys on the planet, but for some reason, this just terrifies me,” he said.

Keisel thanked the community for its continuing support, and called GHS and Greybull a “special place” for him and his wife, Sarah (Johnson) Keisel.

“This is a city of champions,” he said, citing the continuing excellence of Ted Menke’s forensics team as well as titles won in athletics, including the 1996 boys basketball crown he helped secure a decade ago and for which a banner still hangs in the gym.

To the graduates, his words of advice were simple, yet powerful.

The 6-foot-6-inch Keisel told class members that they, too, could succeed in life, and shared his six-point formula for success that emphasizes patience, sacrifice, hard work, focus, empathy and accountability.

“Our defensive line coach in Pittsburgh likes to say, ‘It’s a great day to be alive.’ Take it to heart. Enjoy life today. Life…is what you make of it.”