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Michael Keller
Sports Executive

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                           

   
-What is your career highlight so far? 
Condensing a 40 year career in college and professional sports into a paragraph will be a challenge...but here goes.  High school sports were a blur in my memory, but winning championships in each of my prep sports (football, basketball and golf were special).  Being named athlete of the year in my home town was special.  College was an eye opender but gaining a full ride scholarship in football at a great University (Michigan) started it off.  I was fortuante to play for a legendary coach (Bo Schembechler) at Michigan.  Not only was he a great coach but I learned so many valuable lessons from him in how to live my life and be responsible, accept leadership and realize that the TEAM was more important than individual accomplishment.  We won two Big Ten Championships and I was an All Big Ten and All America Defensive End.  The individual accomplishments were far less appreciated than playing on a winning team...with great teammates and friends.  I was then named to the College All Star Team...the 40 best college players in America and I played against my pro team the Dallas Cowboys in Chicago's Soldier Field.  As an administrator, I loved building championship teams in the USFL, NFL Europe and of course with my college team.
 
-How has the game changed since you first became involved in football?
I don't think the game has materially changed (blocking, tackling, passing, and running).  Its the vast internet coverage and exposure of the players and games that have become so huge.  I played in two Rose Bowls and for the Dallas Cowboys and we could be kids and live our lives in relative anonymity.  Now, every move, of a big time college or pro athlete is scrutinized by the electronic and print media.  In some ways, it takes the fun out of the game because you can't just be a kid or a young adult without everyone analyzing your every move.  On the filed, obviously, it has gotten faster and players bigger, and frankly, more exciting.  I love watching college football more than the pro's.  My son, Sam, was an excellent collge quarterback, starting for two good college teams (ASU and Nebraska)... watching him play and excel was a tremendous thrill.
 
-Who were your heroes growing up?
My heroes growing up, besides my Dad, were athletes from my local pro teams in Detroit.  Alex Karras, Terry Barr, Al Kaline, and Rocky Colavito, Bill Freehan and of course Gordie Howe of the Red wings.  Interestingly, one of my biggest heroes was Roger Staubach, who played QB for the Navy.  Years later he became my teammate in Dallas, a good friend and I even babysat his kids when his wife MaryAnn and he traveled.
 
-When advice do you have for an aspiring athlete/executive? 
Getting an opportunity in professional sports is such a tough thing to plan on.  So much is luck and being in the right place at the right time.  I woudl say to every young athlete to play sports with no expectations.  Play the games because you love doing it and you love being part of a team.  Taking good care of your physical, mental and spiritual well being helps you to work towards a good education and a bigger plan for yourself.  If sports can develop into a career, you are the luck ones, but if you learn the lessons of hard work, sacrifice and team work, you have an advantage over most others in being successful in anything you do.
 
-Describe your typical day?
Its not a very glamorous situation running a team or a league.  Primarily my role is always to be a sounding board, a communicator and the perons most entrusted with staying one step ahead of the media, the team managers and fans.  Its not really a matter of being in charge, its a matter of anticipating problems and hurdles before they arrive and having solutions that will satisfy the grumpiest of owners, coaches and players.  As long as they know you are bing fair with everyone and not choosing sides, they will not necessarily like me....but more importantly they will respect me and my office.