University of Rhode Island redshirt sophomore Charlie McKeeman said it was difficult not to play during his first season on the football team while the coaches found him the right position.
Once he took the field against Marshall University on Sept. 6, 2014, and played his first collegiate game, though, that missed time was a distant memory.
“It was awesome [playing in my first game],” McKeeman said. “Marshall has that huge stadium. It was a great experience.”
“It was a really tough experience for me because I had [always] played. But you got to take that in stride, you got to realize you’re there to get everyone else better. You just got to take it in stride.”
He settled in at tight end and only caught one pass for three yards during his debut for Rhode Island, but it went for his first-career touchdown. He would go on to score twice more during the season (including once the next week), leading the Rams in receiving touchdowns with three.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound McKeeman also placed third on the team with 256 receiving yards and 21.3 yards per game. His performance this year earned him FCS Freshman All-American Honors from TonySoftli.com. Softli has 15 years of experience in the NFL, 11 of which he spent as an executive.
“He’s an intrinsically motivated football player who shows up every day and takes his job on this team very seriously,” Rhode Island tight ends coach Will Fleming said. “He’s very dedicated to being a successful football player and he’s willing to make the sacrifices, no matter where they may be, to get to the highest level. He shows up every day with a great attitude and works hard.”
The only URI player to catch a pass in every game this season was originally recruited as a halfback/fullback and played middle linebacker at Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. In fact, he was all over the field during his senior season. McKeeman registered 131 tackles, 11 of which came for a loss, and one interception on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, he had 1,260 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
McKeeman also lettered in basketball and was an award-winning lacrosse captain at Bishop Stang, but he continues his family’s football legacy by playing at Rhode Island. His father, Joe McKeeman, played center with the Rams during his time at the university.
Former URI head coach Joe Trainer, who recruited Charlie McKeeman, said at National Signing Day in 2013 that his father “was a great player, so we know he is coming from good stock.”
“As soon as I got my scholarship offer I knew this is where I wanted to go,” McKeeman said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps and it feels awesome”
It will be several months of waiting again before McKeeman jogs on to the field against Syracuse University on Sept. 5, but the tight end guaranteed the first winning record for Rhode Island in 14 years. The Rams have not achieved a winning season since 2001, when they went 8-3 including a seven-game victory streak to start the campaign.
“We’re working hard right now,” McKeeman said. “We’re giving it all we’ve got in the offseason. This particular team is really focused so I believe in our team. I believe that we can achieve anything we want next season.”