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Heroes#8217; coach stresses discipline

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Fans on the field after a Huntington Heroes arena football game saw coach Teddy Keaton celebrating a win. He seemed nice. He was smiling and talking to anyone who stopped and asked a question or for a picture.

But don’t let his looks fool you. And don’t you dare let his 5-foot-8 frame make you think he’s some cute little teddy bear of a guy. In fact, he can be more like a grizzly bear.

Keaton’s players love him because he loves them. But it’s a tough love.

“I have trouble dealing with ignorance,” said Keaton. “Football is where you line up and go hard. It’s live. After the 20 seconds, you go back to the huddle and get ready for the next play.

“Everybody wants to be disciplined. You can’t win with undisciplined players. You don’t cuss out the trainer because they didn’t tape your ankle right. It’snot their fault you’re hurt. You don’t say ‘Hey trainer.’ You call them by their name and just ask them to do it again.”

Keaton’s coaching philosophies have worked everywhere he’s been including last season when he guided the Lakeland (Fla.) Thunderbolts to the AIFA championship.

Keaton’s brought coaches and players to Huntington who want to win and understand that he’s in charge. He’s also brought players with speed. Lots of speed.

“Speed kills,” said Keaton with a grin.

Before Lakeland, Keaton was the defensive coordinator for the Odessa Roughnecks of the NIFL. The team went 20-2 in his two seasons and led the league in all defensive categories.

He began coaching as an assistant at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL., where learned how to recruit talent.

“I played high school football and I had some very good coaches,” said Keaton. “All want I wanted to was be a football coach and they knew it. If you aren’t a great player, you see the whole player. You know them as a person, and you know their strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s not all about the Xs and Ox. It’s about understanding your personnel and managing them. It’s no different than a Fortune 500 company.”

There’s another quality about Keaton that is admirable. His loyalty and concern for his assistant coaches.

Keaton had two Arena One coaching opportunities but passed to accept the Heroes’ job.

“I had an opportunity to coach at Arena one as an assistant with two different teams, but because I have assistant coaches who haven’t established themselves, I didn’t want to leave them,” said Keaton.

“I wouldn’t be anything without coaches and players. I’m 31 (years old). I’ve got plenty of years to go to the next level.”

The Heroes are 3-1 on the season and are expected to not only win their division, but to go deep in the playoffs. If they reach the title game, they will be the host site for the game.

Keaton still doesn’t take credit for the high expectations.

“When we win, the kids did it. When we lose, I did it,” said Keaton.

Teddy Keaton is a pretty tough guy, even for a teddy bear.