VERO BEACH, Fla. – When Keith McCaskill came to USF from Godby High School in 2007, he was a 231-pound linebacker looking to wreak havoc on Bulls' opponents. Five years later and 58 pounds heavier, he is the senior leader of a defensive tackles unit looking to replace the production of one of the top players in Bulls' history, Terrell McClain. But for McCaskill, overcoming challenges is nothing new. He's been doing it his whole career. From a position change to anything else he's encountered, McCaskill just keeps on moving.
"His desire to play the game has always been there," said defensive tackles coach Kevin Patrick. "What Keith has had to do over time and where he's earned a lot of respect from the coaches and players is he's continuously worked on doing the little things right, on and off the field."
Even as McCaskill was adjusting to the position change, he had an unquestioned work ethic. He believes that regardless of what you encounter, continuous hard work will eventually lead you to success in whatever you're doing. It's something he learned from his father, Nathaniel.
"My father is one of the hardest working men I know," McCaskill said. "He'll do anything he can to provide for his children, so I think I get it from him. I guess you can apply it to football because there are so many ups and downs, you just have to stay focused and keep grinding through hard times. It will come eventually."
Now, McCaskill is a senior on the defensive line, taking on the leadership role of that position group and passing on his experiences to the younger players. His persistence has put him in a position to succeed and be a major factor in what the 2011 team will accomplish. So, he can share those experiences to help the younger players see that the hard work does eventually pay off.
"He's made mistakes in his life, not major ones, but little things, and that experience of being able to say if you don't do it this way, this is what the reaction is going to be," Patrick added. "He's able to tell the younger guys and show them the way. He was like them and he can tell them what he did. The other guys can relate to him, so he can provide some leadership qualities to these guys."
McCaskill knows he can share his experiences and because of that, he's made himself available to the other members of the group.
"I always want the other guys on the defensive line to see me as a person they can come to," McCaskill noted. "I always try to lend a helping hand. If they need any help in anything, I can show them good examples and bad examples, but I think that helps me get the point across."
His mates on the defensive line agree. Both Anthony Hill, who has dealt with moving from defensive tackle to defensive end this fall, and Cory Grissom spoke glowingly about what McCaskill brings to the table.
"He's always there to help," Hill noted. "We can count on him. He's been down this road and knows what it takes. He's a fighter. He never stops and I think that is a great example for the rest of us."
When the Carolina Panthers took Terrell McClain in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he became the third Bulls' defensive lineman to be drafted in the last two years, which is the most of any FBS school in the state of Florida. Last season, Jason Pierre-Paul was taken in the first round with the 15th pick overall by the New York Giants and George Selvie was a seventh-round selection by the St. Louis Rams.
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