In My Own Words: Keon Markham
Acclimating to a college environment can undoubtedly be challenging for any freshman. Yet, considering the fact that Keon Markham will be joining a Sun Devil squad that includes multiple former Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High School teammates, let alone his former Jackrabbit head coach and current Sun Devils’ linebackers’ coach, Antonio Pierce, the freshman defensive back should have a smoother than normal acclimation period.
More importantly though, the bond Keon has with his twin brother and fellow ASU newcomer Kejuan is one that has served him well all throughout his football career and a relationship that can help him prosper during his upcoming college football tenure. Keon Markham talks about that element and others that have shaped him to be the person and player he currently is and how it serves as an inspiration for a brighter future on and off the field.
“My first time playing a game was flag football here at Poly with the Junior Jackrabbits. I was very young, about six years old, and it was very fun. Ever since then I just liked the game. I remember one of my early games catching a couple of picks and running them back for touchdowns. It was fun playing because it brought all the families together too to come watch me.
“Growing up and playing the game, my brother and I didn’t even know that we could get a college scholarship. We didn’t know anything about that until the end of our freshman year. Then, we started talking to colleges and learned all about recruiting. Our first offer was from the University of Arizona in our sophomore year. Before that, we played football for fun. But once we got offered really early it was a blessing. We dreamed about playing in the NFL, and the teams we liked growing up were the Raiders and Steelers. Playing in college gives a chance to play at that level.
“Having a twin brother and playing football with him is honestly a blessing. We are very competitive in everything we do. Growing up we always competed, and that was actually the best thing for us because it made me a better athlete, and made him a better athlete. We always wanted to see who was faster, who was stronger, who could do this better, who could get this many touchdowns…
“We never had to push each other to stick with football. None of us ever wanted to quit the game. We both fell in love with the sport when we were younger. We’d always want to go and play catch, run and throw the football…we always made it a point to play. We played basketball too but we never loved it as much as football. Right now, I’m actually outside taking to you (prior to Markham’s arrival at ASU) on the field with my brother, and we’re just doing drills and working out.
“Running track in high school helped me and my brother be better football players. It helped us get quicker on our feet too, and getting better with our starts. At first, we didn’t know if we were going to be that good in track. We knew we were fast, but we didn’t know we were going to be that fast. We both ended up running the 100m in the 10.7’s. We both qualified for the state championship in our first year running track, so we proved to ourselves and to our coaches that weren’t just good football players but also good track athletes.
“Our high school this year was ranked number one in California in the 100mx4 relay. But my brother had a hamstring injury so we lost him and ended up coming in third in the state championship. Before he got injured, we run a 40.8 and had the number one time in California, and something like the seventh best time in the U.S. (in 2019)
“It’s fun having a twin brother. When we get to college I honestly don’t know if people will be able to tell us apart. When AP (Antonio Pierce) was the head coach here he just called us twins. He couldn’t tell us apart. He’d always say ‘twins.’ He said whatever he (Kejuan) could do, I could do. He’d say ‘twin, go get that return,’ alright we’ll go get the return - boom, run it back for a touchdown. Then he goes ‘alright, other twin go get the return,’ I’d do the same thing. Then he’s said ‘man, that’s just crazy.’ Me and my brother loved that energy and that made us push each other. We never take it easy on ourselves, and always go hard at each other because that is what makes us better.
“At ASU maybe it will be easier to know who’s who because Kejuan will be at safety, and I’m going to be at corner. But I’m pretty sure first time at practice the coaches are not going to know who is who. It’s going to be crazy, but we’re used to it though. You’ll see that my hair’s a little longer, but you’ll need to be around us more to really tell us apart. We have the same voice, but we have different personalities and in some ways, we talk differently. We never wear the same clothes (laughs). But I understand why it’s hard for people to tell who’s who.
“AP coached us our freshman, sophomore and junior years, and we played on the varsity team when we were freshmen. We didn’t know AP that well before he came to Poly to be the head coach. When he saw our talent at the freshmen level, he just threw us out on varsity, and we started balling there as we did on the freshman team. He was the one that really looked at us and gave us the opportunity to get offers. We didn’t know anything about recruiting or the Pac-12 and he just sat there with us, explained it all, and took his time with us. He gave us the opportunity to shine, and we thank him for that too.
“AP is a great leader, and you just wanted to be like him every time. You wanted to be around him because he fed us all the information we know. He brought with him to Poly other (former) NFL players just like him to coach in Eric King, LaVar Arrington, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. So, we had a great coaching staff throughout my high school years. My coaches helped me improve a lot from my freshman to my senior year. I got better with my football IQ, I got faster and stronger for sure. I had to fix a lot of my technique so they helped me with that too. But there’s always room to get better and that’s why I’m talking to you right now in between doing drills…trying to get better.
“When AP left Poly, it was crazy for us, because he helped me and my brother a lot. We didn’t know at first that he was getting hired by ASU, so we didn’t know what college we were going to go to. But when AP got hired at ASU we said ‘oh yeah wherever you go, we’ll go.’ We knew he got us and he wanted us to play for him again, so we weren’t even worried about what college we were going to. When he ended up offering us to go to ASU that was pretty much a done deal, and we’ve been committed there for a long time. I think we were probably the first ones to commit (in ASU’s 2019 class) then, and we were silent-committed since June (2018).
“First time we visited ASU, we loved it, and my family loved it too. I always say that going there to visit was the first time I’ve ever been outside of California. So, I liked the traveling experience too because you get to see a whole different environment with different weather, with different people…it was just a great experience for us, and I really liked it a lot.
“It was also a great experience seeing a lot of familiar faces who were already on the team like Aashari Crosswell, Merlin Robertson, Darien Butler, Jermayne Lole…these are all guys I played with growing up with. Then I saw other people on the campus too that went to Poly or that I knew from California. All this made me feel like home too, so I know I won’t be homesick as much.
“I think the ASU defense is a good fit for me because I believe I could play there pretty fast, as long as I work hard and compete. I know Chase Lucas and Kobe Williams are the starters at corner, but I believe I can compete with them and we’ll see how it goes from there. I feel I could be a really great defensive back at ASU, and possibly end up as a role player too if they want me. Coach Herm was telling me that they could give me a little hitch route or something else to run, so I’ll turn it up there too. I’m going to play special teams too, so I’m looking forward to taking back a couple of returns for touchdowns. I want to do anything I can just to be on the field and get my fill. I really don’t like losing, that’s how me and my brother are, so we want to do whatever helps the team win because we are team players.
“Coming here as a freshman I just want to be great; I want to be one of the best to come out of Poly. I want to work hard so I can earn my position because I know I have to work hard for playing time. I want to go to the NFL, and that’s the ultimate goal, of course. But I want to be the best player that I can be. I talked to (defensive backs) coach (Tony) White and I know that he’s going to develop me, teach me and going to make me into the best player I can be.
“I know I will have an easy adjustment having my brother there with me to go through everything together. When we’re on the field we’re totally different people especially when we’re competing against each other. I know I’m lucky because some people don’t have that, and have to come into a school by themselves and start meeting new people and everything.
“It’s really a blessing just to have my brother with me at ASU, because I know we’ve got each other’s back.”
Chris Gleason contributed to this article
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