Rivers of desire
Keith Rivers made a decision that a lot of seniors probably
Instead of playing a little bit on the varsity, Rivers decided he would rather spend the season on the junior varsity where he could play at lot.
"I looked at it as an opportunity to show what I could do," he said. "I really don't regret it."
That has been the attitude Rivers has taken ever since eighth grade when his classmates talked him into going out for football.
A deformed right arm could not prevent Rivers from carry- ing out his passion for sports.
His can-do attitude and cheery disposition has made him a coach's dream.
"He's what you want all your kids to be," said Rockdale Coach Jeff Miller. "He's never missed a practice, he's never been late to a practice. He just loves to play."
"He never just sits around and does nothing. He always finds something positive to do within his capabilities."
"Keith is fun to be around," said his junior varsity coach Brent Hasselbach, who also coaches Rivers in track. "He loves to compete and he is one of the few that really loves to be at practice. He is often the last one to leave."
"I admire his courage and dedication to sports," says Gibbs, whose son Brandon is a classmate of Rivers. "He comes out every year with a positive attitude and works hard. I admire that in Keith because he doesn't give up just because of his handicap. He has played sports here since I can remember.
"He is a good person with a strong heart."
Rivers' decision to play JV ball has been fortuitous and he has become an intregal part of the team.
Besides starting at cornerback and subbing in at running back, he recently found himself with a new job.
When the Tigers' kicker flunked out at the six weeks mark, Hasselbach auditioned players and Rivers turned out to be the best.
"Honestly, it was the first time I had kicked, but I knew you just took three steps and kicked it," he said.
While Rivers handles kickoff chores now, kickoff returns is more to his liking and the highlight of his career was almost returning a kickoff back for a touchdown earlier in the year against Bryan Rudder before being cut down near the goal line.
"Since there hasn't been anybody return a kick this year for Rockdale, I wanted to try and do that and I'm still going to try."
He is also proud of the fact that he was named one of the players of the game against Cameron—the first game he started.
The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Rivers didn't play football until the eighth grade, when his friends talked him into it.
"I was curious to see what it was like," he said. "I was thinking that I would just do football and then quit. But, I loved it."
Rivers—who plans to attend college and major in business— started to come up to the track more and frequented the weight room. The Tiger coaches encouraged him and urged him to test himself.
"Everything they were telling me started working," he said. "When I was a freshman I'm even with everybody, then I'm passing everybody."
"He's scored a couple of touchdowns and made some big plays for us and that's fun to see," Miller said.
His speed also made him a natural for track where he has run on the sprint and 800- meter relay teams and in the 200, but his speciality remains the 100-meter dash.
"As soon as football is over, I'm going to start working on my track speed so I can go to regionals this year," he said. "If I can go to regionals, I'll feel accomplished."
But according to teammates and coaches, just being Keith Rivers has already been quite an accomplishment.