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Rashad mILLIGAN | Times-News POCKET POISE: Point sophomore quarterback Keenan Wise steps back into the pocket before delivering a pass against NAIA No. 19-ranked Southeastern this past Saturday. It was the first football game that Wise played in six years.

Extremely Wise: 24-year-old Point quarterback shares story of perseverance

VALLEY — Keenan Wise drove up one exit on I-85 North with tears flowing from his eyes while on the way to Rams Stadium this past Saturday morning.

He was expected to play in his first football game in six years as a sophomore quarterback for the Point Skyhawks.

“I was like ‘wow, this is really happening,’” Wise said. “Everything I’ve done. I’ve pushed, I’ve worked, I haven’t stopped and now I’m finally getting my chance to play. To have my parents in the stands, watching me and knowing that they’re proud of me for all of the sacrifices they made for me to turn it into a positive is a great feeling.”

Wise graduated from Locust Grove High School, 37 minutes south of Atlanta, in May 2013 with plans to play four years of college football before entering the workforce. He began his higher education career at the NCAA FCS D-I program Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. After starring as a dual-threat quarterback in high school, Wise was placed on defense as a freshman. 

He desired to return to the quarterback position, so he “made some calls” and transferred to NCAA D-II Shorter University in Rome, Georgia. Wise paid out of pocket to attend Shorter but was never eligible to play at the school because of his grades. During his two seasons of ineligibility, Wise developed a relationship with defensive coordinator Julius Dixon and fellow assistant coach Barry Casterlin.

He ultimately found himself back home in Locust Grove in fall 2016, the same year that Dixon accepted the head coaching job at Point. Dixon also brought along Casterlin to become the program’s newest offensive coordinator. Wise kept in contact with his former coaches during the period of transition, expressing his desire to play the game again. 

He was working at UPS to pay off his account balance at Shorter. He also coached the quarterbacks and wide receivers at Locust Grove on a volunteer basis to stay around the game.

“I always wondered what happened to him,” Dixon said. “I found out online that he left Shorter, he was back home working and that he was coaching at the time at the high school. It made me feel a little better knowing that he was at least still involved.”

Wise finally saved up enough to pay off his balance at Shorter University, and immediately called Casterlin and Dixon.

Wise went up to the admissions office at Point to give his story, and thanks to NCAA to NAIA transferring rules, he was granted five more semesters of eligibility. He began taking classes in West Point this past January, and he still pays a portion of tuition and living expenses out of pocket to play for the Skyhawks. No athlete on the 135-man roster is on a full scholarship, Dixon said.

A history education major, Wise’s grades last semester were the best they have ever been for him in college, according to Dixon.

“When we got midterm grades and I looked at his I said ‘ok,’” Dixon said while nodding his head in approval. “When we got final grades, I looked at his and I asked him ‘man, who is this Keenan Wise dude?’ he started laughing and said ‘I don’t know.’ He has learned from his past mistakes and so far he has been a stellar student.”

Against NAIA No. 19-ranked Southeastern this past Saturday, Wise completed 10-of-18 passes for 111 yards. 

Splitting snaps with fellow sophomore quarterback Micah Maxey, Wise led the Skyhawks down the field in two of the offense’s best drives of the day into the red zone. Both drives in the 27-6 loss ended with interceptions that Wise said were a result of him getting too excited to throw his first touchdown pass in over half a decade. At the end of the game, however, he was all smiles because he was finally playing college football again.

“Don’t make yourself too big for any school,” Wise said as advice to current high school athletes. “You never know where you’re going to end up. When I came out of high school, I didn’t know where Point was. I had gotten mail from Shorter but didn’t really give it any thought and here I am now at an NAIA school. At the end of the day, ball is ball. When you love the game, it doesn’t matter where you get to play at, it’s a blessing to play on Saturdays because everybody doesn’t get that chance.” 

On an afternoon where the Skyhawks lost to their third-consecutive nationally-ranked opponent to open the 2019 season, Point University football had something to rejoice on Sept. 14. 

“This is why you do what we do. To have stories like this,” Dixon said. “In the end, football’s only going to last a few more years for him, but this story is going to be one that he can tell his grandkids. A story of perseverance. This is a story that they’re going to be telling long after he’s gone.”

Wise, now 24-years-old, hopes to continue leading younger people in their educational journeys as a teacher upon graduation. With his various life experiences, however, he understands that his current plans are never set in stone.

“I do want to teach very badly, but I don’t know if teaching is going to be my end result at this point,” Wise said. “I’ve been through so much and I’ve gone through so many things that I take it day-by-day. God has a plan, it’s already written. I’m just going wherever He takes me.”