Kejuan Markham poised to make an immediate impact as a freshman
Long Beach Poly to Tempe.
The connection has turned into a lucrative pipeline for Arizona State as six of the team’s current players as well as its linebackers’ coach, Antonio Pierce, have come from the school in recent year.
Despite a little over a six-hour driving distance between the schools, Tempe has quickly turned to a home away from home for Long Beach Poly football players including freshman Kejuan Markham.
“One time we all lined up there,” said ASU head coach Herm Edwards, “and I said “AP (Antonio Pierce), they are all Jackrabbits!’”
“It’s great, it’s really a blessing,” Markham said of the connections between the schools. “I really feel like I’m at home, there’s no place I’d rather be. I’m just so comfortable. A lot of people say being too comfortable is bad, but I’m really doing good.”
The sense of comfort is one that has happened by no accident for Markham. While the connection between Tempe and Long Beach Poly was no secret, Markham planned to have a sense of comfort no matter where he went.
Markham’s twin brother, Keon, was committed to playing with his brother as a duo at the collegiate level, choosing to go to the same school no matter where they went.
While Kejuan calls it a blessing to have his brother by his side on the field, the twins still have their fights, including those over each other’s footwear.
“I’m better at him in everything,” Kejuan said. “We compete a lot. Yesterday we just had a fight about him wearing my sandals. We fight about everything, but we get along at the end of the day like we’re brothers.”
When the duo is not fighting over sandals, the pair is fighting for playing time in the defensive backfield, each at their respective positions (Kejuan at safety, Keon at cornerback) as both have a chance to make an impact as a true freshman.
As Keon has spent the majority of preseason practices getting healthy to compete on the field, his brother has spent his time adjusting to the faster pace of college compared to high school.
“It’s been a lot faster,” Kejuan said. “I feel like I can run with a lot of other dudes. Mainly, learning what I need to do so I can play fast.”
Advancing to the faster speed was a process that was not only sped up by the freshman’s comfortableness in the program but by a fellow Long Beach Poly alum.
Now a sophomore and team interception leader from a year ago, safety Aashari Crosswell has been a key factor in Markham’s transition to the collegiate level.
A bond formed by a common connection from their high school days along with a coaching staff willing and wanting to teach has been the key to slow down a game that plays faster at the next level.
“We’re really close,” Markham said of his relationship with Crosswell. “He’s helped me a lot. Little extra work, talking to me about what I’m supposed to do.
“Coach [Gonzales] is a really good coach. He’s been helping me with my alignments. He’s really good at explaining stuff. And having Tony White and A.P (Antonio Pierce) they’ve really been helping me.”
The freshman’s relationship with his position coach in Tony White is one offers a sense of balance, a connection he described as one that clicks, yet is not without its teaching moments.
One where the two get each other but is not without its constructive criticism.
“He’s probably one of the hardest ones on me for knowing what I’m supposed to do,” Markham admitted. “He knows what I’m capable of so he’s really been on me.”
Whether it has been a feeling of home, his friendship with Crosswell, or White pushing the freshman, the results have been showing on the field.
Markham has worked his way into the two-deep on the depth chart and had a standout stretch at Camp Tontozona securing two interceptions during the week.
“When I first came out here, I was getting reps with the three’s, and sometimes the three’s barely get reps,” Markham commented. “I wasn’t in my feelings; I wasn’t worried because I know what I can do and know all I have to do is keep learning. Now that I’ve worked my way up to the two’s, I’ve just been taking advantage of all my reps and doing everything right.”
Interceptions are something that the freshman is no stranger to. Markham hauled in 14 during his high school career, including collecting nearly a fourth of his total in one game.
Markham recorded three interceptions in a matchup against Narbonne High School, which is in and of itself is an impressive feat, but Markham managed to do much more than that.
The former Long Beach Poly player took each of the three interceptions back for touchdowns with yardages of 45, 38 and 97.
“The first one was my favorite in that one,” Markham said recalling the game. “Because we were down and those were the first points on the board. The quarterback didn’t see me at all.
“It was surprising because I was like they’re still going to throw it to my side. It just felt like a Pop Warner game. I was just catching it and running.”
As much success as the freshman had in high school, his focus remains on focusing more on his upcoming days, not those behind him.
With a talented group of fellow freshmen around him including Jordan Clark, Markham sees the group as one that could make an impact this season.
“They got tremendous range and speed,” said ASU head coach Herm Edwards of these underclassmen defensive backs. “We got a lot of length there all of a sudden. The more they learn the system. The Markham brothers remind me a lot of Aashari. They have his talent, they have his speed, and they have his length. We got some guys and it will be fun figuring out how we get them all on the field.
“And we got some stuff in our hip pocket, so we’ll see what happens.”
“We all want to play we all are hungry,” Markham said of the group. “We all have the same background. Me and Jordan (Clark) we really work together; we’ve got good communication. When he’s the corner on my side we’re just on the same page.”
While the group of young players looks to make an immediate impact as a whole, Markham will look to set high goals for himself.
Goals that will not only push himself to get national recognition but will be centered at the team’s overall success as a unit. As Markham simply wants to help the team win.
“I want to be a freshman All-American,” Markham said. “I want to play a lot.”
“I want to win. Anything to help us win.”
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