Prep Signing: Salisbury’s McKeithan will prove himself at Appalachian State
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Salisbury football coach Joe Pinyan says Parker McKeithan is a big project as an Appalachian State recruit.
At, 6-foot-4, 295, a big, big project.
The Hornets’ offensive lineman is headed to Boone with teammate Justin Ruffin as a preferred walk-on, which means he is on the team, even without a scholarship secured.
The scholarship can come, his coaches say, with hard work and a new mindset.
“With his size and ability, he can play there,” said Hornets’ offensive line coach David Johnson. “Is he at that level now? No. Can he be after a few years in their program? Yes.”
McKeithan was a key to Salisbury’s wishbone churning for almost 300 yards per game and winning 11 of 14 games in 2012. But this will be different from his Salisbury days.
“I’ll be a tackle there,” McKeithan said. “I’ll pass block more. I’ll just stay focused.”
McKeithan will become the second college football player in the family. Dad Eric was a defensive lineman at Catawba from 1988-91, playing with current Catawba coach Curtis Walker. But Eric doesn’t want to hear any of this, “Be as good as Dad” talk.
“He needs to create his own name, learn from his own mistakes and do everything right,” Eric said.
One asset is that McKeithan will be a one-sport Mountaineer. At Salisbury he played three.
“It will benefit him tremendously,” Eric said. “With just one sport, he’ll have time to work out and not go from football to wrestling to baseball.”
Eric speaks from experience. He came to Catawba from 1A Red Springs.
“I was way behind,” Eric said. “When you get to college, you have to do it, you have no choice. The coaches are there to make you do it. It’s a mindset. You’ll see a difference when Parker comes home next summer.”
Running back Ruffin is one future Mountaineer glad to have McKeithan on his side. He has talked many times of racing behind the behemoth for much of his 1,724 yards last season.
“It makes it a lot better,” McKeithan said of going to Boone, not only with Ruffin, but with North’s Will Robertson, another offensive lineman. “I’m excited about going up there with them.”
McKeithan’s father always wondered about which sport Parker would choose. Growing up through the youth leagues, it appeared baseball was his ticket.
“I let him decide,” Eric said, “but when he decided to play (football), I was ecstatic.”
As the years went on, Pinyan nurtured McKeithan into an all-conference and all-county performer. This past season, the guard helped Salisbury score 40 points seven times.
Johnson saw a constant improvement.
“I saw a progression of getting aggressive and tougher,” he said.
Now, it’s up to McKeithan to keep moving forward.
“The Good Lord gave him 6-4, 290 with good feet,” Pinyan said. “The Appalachian coaches feel, ‘We can make him a pretty good football player.’ But it will be a year or two before he fits in.”
McKeithan is ready for the challenge.
“I’m going up there and hit the weights hard,” he said.
His father has no doubt his son can play D-I football.
“I saw glimpses of it,” Eric said of his son’s dominance this past season. “It’s in him. He has no choice but to man up.
“I think he will.”