Justin Keller, a rising Ridgefield senior, made the school’s varsity football team as a freshman in 2019, filling the role as the Tigers’ third-string quarterback. After the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Keller is primed to assume the role as Ridgefield’s starting quarterback. He spoke to the Ruden Report at the Grip It and Rip It 7-on-7 football tournament Friday.
How do you feel about being the starting quarterback of the team?
“It’s a good feeling; after a year off we are all just kind of learning about the group of guys that we have out there now. Everyone in the FCIAC is in that boat. We’re all excited, I’m excited personally. We got through the 7-on-7 in the fall, so I gained some good experience there and we’re excited about what we have out there and we’ll see what we can do.”
Since the 2020 season was canceled, what did you do to prepare yourself physically and mentally for the 2021 season?
“Just repping what we do. Footwork drills, all that kind of stuff. I worked on pocket presence and making sure I wasn’t losing out on that kind of stuff. Staying on top of things, knowing that we were going to have a full season this year was important.
How are 7-on-7 passing tournaments beneficial to quarterbacks as you prepare for the upcoming fall season?
“This is really helpful, especially for me as a quarterback. We take that aspect of throwing under pressure out, so you really get to work on your reads and seeing defenses. Especially me, being a younger guy and new to this stuff, getting out there, seeing those teams and our guys going out there and competing against them, it’s pretty beneficial.”
How do you feel about Ridgefield’s offense and its potential?
“I feel we have a lot of potential. Obviously, with a year off we don’t really know. But we have a lot of rising seniors out there and we have a returning varsity and starter, Kai Prohaszka. So we’re all very excited with the talent we have out there for sure.”
For young quarterbacks such as yourself, how long does it take to develop a rapport with your receivers and the entire offensive unit?
“It definitely takes a while, but going back to my freshman year here, I played JV with a bunch of these guys, so I’ve been around here for a while. Getting out throwing four or five times a week and just being around them outside of football and getting to know them, that definitely helps.”
What are you doing to prepare for the upcoming season before practice officially begins in late August?
“We do these kind of 7-on-7 passing leagues every Monday night, so we get out there and compete that way. And five or six days a week we are out there mornings, lifting, throwing, running a lot. So we’re all excited and we’re all getting ready.”
When did you start playing football?
“Flag football, everyone started doing that in kindergarten. But tackle football, I started playing in third grade. I did that through Ridgefield Youth Program and it was awesome. A lot of these same guys played too, we’ve been around each other since we were young, which helps. All throughout middle school, we were in the same program too.”
What areas have you made improvements in and what aspects do you need to continue to tighten up?
“I started playing quarterback around sixth or seventh grade and when you’re that young, it involves a lot more running. Once I got to high school, I started to learn how to read defenses at a higher level. You learn to make a lot more throws. I think now I’ve done a pretty good job of getting to that and I’m feeling pretty ready. But getting out and doing this kind of stuff — reading defenses a little bit more — that’s going to be beneficial to us having a successful fall.
Are you looking forward to being a part of the FCIAC rivalries and experiencing the competition the conference has to offer?
“I was lucky enough to be the third-string quarterback as a freshman, so I was lucky enough to experience those games and be on the sideline. Just seeing that competition level then got me very excited to play.”
What did you learn from being on the varsity team your freshman year?
“I definitely learned a lot. Owen Matthews, the senior quarterback that year, was a great mentor for me. It was awesome watching him throw the ball and practice and seeing what a great leader he was. I definitely learned a lot from him and I’ll use some of that now.”
The team has experienced a lot of success in the FCIAC in seasons past. What do you think of the team’s potential?
“We would definitely like to pick up where we left off in 2019, when we finished 8-2. We’re looking for a playoff run this year. Obviously, no one really knows anyone in the FCIAC right now after a year off, but we’re definitely excited and we feel we have the potential to be one of the top teams.”
Who is your favorite football team?
“I’m a Chargers fan; my whole family is from San Diego, so we’ve always been Chargers fans. We watch all the games.
Favorite sports movie?
Remember the Titans. It’s a fun one. Every high school football player probably loves that movie.”