Bill Keenist tells students to get involved 2011.05.18

Written by David Green.

bill_keenistBy DAVID GREEN

Everyone faces adversity in their life—some more than others, some worse than others, but everyone will have some tough times.

How you respond to the troubles will color your life and determine your future.

That was the message presented Friday by Bill Keenist, senior vice president of communications for the Detroit Lions.

Keenist spoke to Morenci’s seventh through twelfth graders at the invitation of Taz Wallace, the school’s athletic director. The two met when Keenist’s son played football at Adrian College.

For Keenist, a big challenge came in his junior year of high school when a knee injury put an end to playing football, his favorite sport.

He wallowed in his misery until a friend snapped him out of it by suggesting that he work for the school newspaper.

“If you can’t play sports, write about it,” his friend suggested.

He did and possibilities blossomed, eventually leading to the career he has today with the Lions.

“When adversity hits, accept it as an opportunity for growth,” Keenist said. “Do we quit and back off or do we move forward?”

It’s a guarantee that challenging, adverse situations will arrive; it’s a person’s reaction that can bring growth and gain.

Making mistakes is easy, Keenist said, and there’s only one way to prevent that: Sit in the bleachers and do nothing.

“It’s easy not to compete,” he said, framing life’s challenges in terms of athletics, “but that’s not life. You need to enter the game and compete.”

Keenist, a 25-year veteran with the Lions organization, spoke about the extra effort made by running great Barry Sanders. Long after everyone had left to go home, Sanders was still in the training room.

“He was making himself better when no one was looking,” Keenist said. “He did the right thing when no one was looking.”

It’s easy to do the right thing when others are around, but when the lights are out and it’s only you—that shows integrity.

Doing the right thing, he added, is often not the popular thing, and its rewards may be months or years down the road. The commitment to do right shouldn’t be made to a teacher or a coach, he said, but to yourself.

“Every day you have the opportunity to be part of something,” Keenist said, and he urged students to get involved in school activities. He was pleased to see there was a band member among the players on the small football team.

Keenist, a board of education member with the Oxford school district, spoke of the cliques that have long been present in schools, and of how he sees through them.

“There’s no such thing as the cool clique,” he said. “It’s all one clique. Through all of your differences, you’re very much alike.”

The world is a very diverse place, he said, but underneath we’re all very similar with shared likes, dislikes and concerns.

“This is a special, special time in your lives,” Keenist told his young audience. “Take advantage of it. Get involved. Don’t be afraid to fail. We’ll all face adversity, but we keep getting back up on our feet.”

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