Steve Serby of the New York Post sat down with New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller for the following interview:
Q: When did you start calling your mother before every game?
A: Definitely since I’ve had a cell phone … senior year of high school? Every single game I’ve ever played in — whether it be football, basketball, running track, anything — I always call my mom and pray with her for every single game.
Q: Describe what that conversation will be like.
A: It’s generally pretty short, ’cause when she goes through her prayers, they can be pretty lengthy. Whether it be in my hotel room, whether it be on the bus, whether it be in the locker room, she goes through the prayer and she kinda puts her own little spiel together on the prayer, and then the Prayer of Jabez also. She freestyles everything off the top of her head but the Prayer of Jabez she memorizes.
A: And I even pray for my dog Achilles. … He’s not even my dog, he’s my son (smile).
Q: Describe your mother.
A: The sweetest woman in the world. … You couldn’t pay her to say something negative about somebody. She will do anything for her [five] sons, anything in the world. I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about her — obviously they wouldn’t because there’s five brothers and they might get whupped if they did that. She’s the Keller version of Mother Teresa; she’s just the sweetest woman ever.
Q: When you found out your father had died of a drug overdose, what was your reaction?
A: Anger. … I was really mad, I was really upset. It was around seventh grade, and he had never seen me in any real competitive sport, whether that be middle school basketball or football or anything. And just to think that … he’s never going to see me play in person, obviously. … He’s watching me from above, but just for him not to actually be there, that hurt for a long, long time. And still bothers me from time to time just to know that I’ve made it this far, and he hasn’t gotten the chance to be there in person to watch any of this, and that really does kill me, but also I use it as motivation. I know he’s looking down on me. That’s part of the prayer too, just for him to stick with me, and be there, and help me push through anything that comes my way.
Q: Were you aware that he had a drug problem?
A: I was not. … We’d only see him maybe once a month, two months, three months … very rarely we really even saw him, but anytime we did, still we welcomed with open arms, that’s still your dad, and you love him, you’re so grateful to spend that time with him, but hadn’t seen him for quite some time and then we got this information so … It’s a hard thing to deal with, especially when you’re a middle school kid. I know I was getting picked up in the car, and all my family’s in the car. … I was wondering why everybody was in the car at the same time. And I’m sitting there making jokes getting in the car, and then they informed me. … It was like, I went from an ultimate high, just leaving basketball practice and stuff, to an ultimate low. … It was the hardest thing in the world to deal with … just didn’t know how to go on but … then you just think about he’s the one that really got me started in sports, so what would he want me to do? Just give every single thing I got. Everything I do, I do for my family, and him included. That’s why I’m just so fortunate and so blessed, to be in a position I am, that I can take care of my family if I have to.
Q: Who was it that told you?
A: My mother told me.
Q: Do you remember her exact words?
A: I get in the car, and then I’m making a joke, and nobody laughs and so … “Why is everybody being so quiet, what’s wrong?” Then she’s like, “Dustin … your father, he passed away.” And it’s just like: “What? What do you mean, what are you talking about?” “He’s gone.” Everybody’s in tears and … he’s not gonna be at Thanksgiving anymore, not gonna be at Christmas, you’re not gonna see him again, not in this life, you’re not gonna see him again. Obviously one day we’ll be together again but … it’s a really tough thing,
A: Everybody loved him, still people always talk about him. I think a lot of my brothers and I get our mannerisms and sense of humor from him.