Dillon Keefe finished the 2019 season as one of the best players in Division III. An All-America First Team selection, the linebacker led the Panthers to a historic season. Chapman won its third SCIAC title, hosted its first-ever postseason game, won its first-ever postseason game and achieved the highest ranking in school history.
“I don’t think I’ll fully be able to really describe how it felt to make history in the fashion that we made it,” Keefe said. “There is so much history behind that 2019 team that paved the way for so many of us from the teams before us. The team really was years in the making and my role on the team, the way I see it, was to be as much of a leader and team player as I could be.”
Team player might be an understatement. Keefe was a menace to opposing offenses with a team-best 72 tackles, including 17 for a loss. He got to the opposing QB for 10.5 sacks in 11 games and was one of the best in the nation at coming off the edge to block four kicks. He picked off a pass, broke up nine more, forced two fumbles and recovered another for a touchdown.
“If the coaches needed me to play anywhere, either side of the ball, I’d do what the they needed me to do.”
Some may remember this commitment to playing on both sides of the ball when Keefe ran out to line up as Chapman’s running back in the third quarter of the Panthers’ playoff game against Linfield. Down 34-28, Keefe ran the ball in for a 10-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 34-34. The captain played the rest of the game on defense before executing a perfect trick play in double overtime in which he threw a 25-yard TD pass to keep the Panthers in the game.
“I think the biggest role I had though, was to be as much of a brother to my teammates and to stand alongside them for the entirety of the season, no matter where I was on the field or off the field.”
With his success in the 2019 season, it’s no surprise that Keefe was named to multiple publications’ Pre-Season All-America lists. The linebacker, though, said he was in fact surprised by the selection.
“When I saw that I was selected to be a preseason All American, I had it sent to me by one of my coaches. I was not expecting it at all and it took me by surprise.”
Keefe did have his sights set on the prestigious selection, though, dating back to the summer of 2019.
“When I saw the 2019 preseason All-American team, I told myself I’d make it the following year (2020), so to see it come full circle, after all the hard work and dedication I put into the program, it felt really good. I am proud of myself, but am nowhere near satisfied with where I am at.”
With the 2020 season cancelled, Keefe is looking to the future of the Chapman football program.
“If everything goes as planned and we are able to return for a 2021 season, I think my mindset going into it will be the same as my mindset going into the 2020 season was. I want to be the best player to ever come through the program at Chapman, and I want to be the best player in Division III football.”
His individual success is not without that of his teammates. Keefe understands that he would not be where he is today without the dedication and commitment of all of his teammates.
“My success comes from the team’s success and I am nothing without them. It’s a team game and I’m lucky to be on one of the top teams in the nation.”
A humble, hard-working leader, there is no doubt Keefe will take this team to new heights next season.