He’s broken records and received awards. His performance has demanded the spotlight. But all Jake Keegan cares about is winning.
In his senior year, the forward has taken college soccer by storm, accumulating eight goals and 19 total points through just nine games, good for first in the America East and fourth in the nation in both categories.
The John Jay High School alumnus has already earned his place among Binghamton record holders with his program-best 25 career goals and 62 career total points. And with eight regular season games left to play in his collegiate career, there’s still a lot of history to be written.
But for all his personal accolades this season and throughout his career, Keegan remains adamant about his top priority: winning.
“It’s probably cliché to say, but personal achievements are nice if the team is winning, but if you’re not winning then they really don’t matter,” he said.
The Bearcats have disappointed in the past three seasons, losing in the America East Quarterfinals in 2009 and 2010, Keegan’s freshman and sophomore years, and failing to even make the tournament in 2011 for the first time since since 2002.
“Maybe somewhere down the line I might think about it,” Keegan said about his personal achievements. “But we haven’t been great in any of the three years that I’ve been here, so overall, its been a disappointment. So hopefully, if we can be successful this year, we can wipe all that away.”
In both his freshman and junior seasons, Keegan led the team in goals with seven, so his output in 2012 thus far shouldn’t come as a shock.
But as Keegan reflects back on his freshman season, he sees how far he has come as an athlete.
“As a freshman I wasn’t nearly as polished of a player,” he said. “I kind of just got by on creating or getting on the end of chances and I was able to score a few goals, but this year I’ve kind of been able to bring it all together. I think I can play multiple areas on the field and I can do a lot of different things well now.”
At 5 feet 9 inches and 150 lbs., he’s one of the smallest players on Binghamton’s roster. While he’s never necessarily looked the part of an offensive powerhouse, Keegan said that’s the way he has to think of himself.
“If you don’t think of yourself in that way as a forward then you’re probably not going to be very good,” he said. “Confidence is everything, especially for a goal scorer.”
Binghamton head coach Paul Marco, who is in his 11th season leading the Bearcats, recruited Keegan in high school. He said that Keegan has “always had a knack for scoring goals,” but this year he has noticed an even more “persistent” Keegan.
As much as anything else, Marco said he has always been impressed by Keegan’s demeanor off the field. The senior has consistently been on the honor roll and has always put family first, according to Marco.
“When you talk about a player and the five pillars — physically, technically, tactically, psychologically and lifestyle — I think he fits the bill,” Marco said. “He’s close to the center in all of them … The way that he carries himself is an example. I think he’s got some days after Binghamton that he might be playing as well. I think that that’s the kind of guy he is. He’s a pro.”
Keegan said his sights are set on professional soccer after graduation. He plans to compete in trials and hopes to find a team in the U.S. or even overseas. And if that doesn’t work out, Keegan said he doesn’t envision himself ever leaving the game behind completely. He’s thought about coaching after his playing career, which should come as no surprise. He has been playing soccer since he was four years old and is a student of the game. But Keegan’s not your traditional leader. He’s not the type to give a passionate pregame speech to get the team pumped. Instead, he leads by example.
“He’s not a very outspoken person,” Marco said. “He’s not flamboyant. You wouldn’t see him in the locker room being a ‘ra-ra’ guy. He’s a guy, though, that when the whistle blows, if you’re standing across from him, you better be bringing it. And if you’re standing behind him, you can expect consistency from him and a terrific competitive spirit.”
It’s clear that Keegan has always had a team-first mentality, but it’s hard to believe he never thinks about the legacy he’s building as a Bearcat. With eight more regular season games remaining in his collegiate career, he needs only five more goals and 10 more points to break the Binghamton single-season record.
“The only way that enters into my mind is that I’ll probably need to score that many and more for us to win this year, so I guess in that sense, yes, I do think about,” he said.
With a 4-5 record on the season and conference play on the horizon, the Bearcats will look for Keegan to continue to lead by example, and to shatter those records.