Keegan Cox: The record-breaking Panther

Keegan Cox (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

For Knoxville Panther football fans, there were many highlights to the 2019 season. Perhaps there are none better than seeing junior safety Keegan Cox getting between a receiver and the ball on his way to the school’s interception record.

Keegan started playing football in fifth grade, with flag football coaches John Hollinrake and John Short. There, he says he learned the fundamentals of the game that he is still using today. It has also helped him build his technique.

Football was always something of interest to him. The lifelong Iowa Hawkeye fan has watched many of the gridiron greats provide memories over the years.

Up until the 2019 season, when in uniform himself, he was solely a running back. Before last season, though, Coaches Eric Kellar and Matt Willoughby identified his talent for defense. Once Keegan tried out for the secondary, he just got better at it.

Keegan still can’t believe he had the kind of season on defense that he had. He spends hours watching film to get to know his opposing offenses. On the field, he has been able to read the quarterback and was able to create eight of the team’s 15 interceptions last season.

“It was kind of unbelievable,” Keegan said. In his first year on defense, in addition to the interceptions, Keegan had 10 solo tackles. Offensively, in 2019, he had four touchdowns and 436 total yards.

Keegan’s athletic endeavors at Knoxville High School go beyond football. He is a starting varsity basketball player and a track star. With the track season currently suspended, he has remained busy running and doing his own workouts.

Most of his summers are spent at football and basketball camps in an effort to improve his game. Though he’s gotten accolades for his athletic success, Keegan is also an honor student and recognized for his academic achievements through various athletic bodies.

In the fall, Keegan will be a senior. He is unsure of his plans after high school, but has intentions to reach out to coaches about playing college football. He plans to see how his senior year on the football field goes. If life after KHS does not include the opportunity to play football, he would be happy looking at a trade school and becoming an electrician. He’s interested in that field because of the math involved and just being able to help people.

Keegan has no interest in following in the footsteps of his father, Lt. Shane Cox of the Pella Police Department, nor his grandfather, retired Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Cox. Law enforcement does not interest him, especially after witnessing the kind of stress and situations that go with the territory. Regardless of what he chooses to do, he knows his family supports him.

“They’re behind me for whatever I do,” Keegan said.

Classes at KHS have been suspended for over a month now, due to COVID-19. Keegan has spent his time practicing social distancing by using FaceTime to talk with friends, driving around with a friend in the car and running.

“I never realized how much you miss school when you’re supposed to be in it,” Keegan said.

He misses his friends and the activities. “It makes for long days.” The additional free time has allowed him to learn how to play guitar and improve his video game skills.

Football workouts, practices and the season, will come up quickly. Keegan and the entire secondary will return for the Panthers. As a senior, he recognizes that he will need to be one of the guys that need to take a top leadership role on the team.

Keegan intends to reach out to teammates to run some routes and other drills. His goal, like the coaches’, is to have the team ready to play on the very first snap of the 2020 season. Everyone on the team has a mindset of getting better each and every week.

In 2021, his top goal is to help his team get even better. If he has one specific goal for himself, it would be to match – and break – his own interception record.

Looking beyond his graduation and post-secondary plans, Keegan can see himself coming home to Knoxville to raise a family and build a life.

“Knoxville is a great place,” Keegan said. “It’s a nice place to raise a family.” He already knows several people in town, of all ages, and sees great benefit in that. “Coming back here would be my greatest interest.”