McKeon builds on foundation laid by Butt

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 2:35pm

Sophomore tight end Sean McKeon was the butt of jokes after catching his first touchdown against Minnesota and shushing his own crowd.

Sophomore tight end Sean McKeon was the butt of jokes after catching his first touchdown against Minnesota and shushing his own crowd. Buy this photo
Katelyn Mulcahy/Daily

When it comes to celebrating, Sean McKeon is no Odell Beckham Jr. 

The sophomore tight end scored his first career touchdown in the first quarter of Michigan’s 33-10 win over Minnesota on Nov. 4.

McKeon, of course, was pretty excited — perhaps too much so.

After sprinting in untouched, he ran straight to the corner of the endzone and promptly shushed his own home crowd.

McKeon realized towards the end what he had done. But it was already too late, so he went on with it before returning to the bench and celebrating further with teammates.

“I was pretty emotionally fired-up,” McKeon said, smiling, Tuesday night. “Just had a lot of adrenaline going through. Not really sure why I did that, but I guess it was kinda funny.

“It might be my thing now, but we’ll see. They all made fun of me a little bit for it. It’s alright.”

Sophomore left guard Ben Bredeson counts McKeon as one of his best friends on the team. He was happy that McKeon finally scored — and also admitted he was “one of the major guys” who gave McKeon “some crap” for his celebration.

“I saw it the next day, actually, and sent it to him immediately,” Bredeson said Tuesday night. “Just wanted to make sure that he knew that I knew.”

So it was clear McKeon hadn’t practiced his celebrations. But he had worked on everything that went into scoring the touchdown.

McKeon’s two biggest goals this offseason were to bulk up to 250 pounds and earn the starting tight end job. He currently weighs 245 after losing some weight during fall camp. He did hit 250 at one point, though, and he’s also the starter now, leading Michigan in receptions and receiving yards in two of the past three games.

His 25 catches, 256 receiving yards and two touchdowns — first, second and first, respectively, on the team — are simply the fruits of his offseason labor.

McKeon spent a lot of time in the weight room over the summer. He also spent a lot of time with redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters, often texting his friend to join him at Schembechler Hall.

“From day one, we’ve been working out together, throwing and catching balls together,” McKeon said. “We used to come in on weekends, early mornings, and throw. I think we’ve got a good connection because of that.”

All of that work built on the foundation McKeon laid his freshman year — a foundation that began with the help of former tight end Jake Butt.

McKeon, who enrolled early in the winter of 2016, recalled leaning on Butt in those early days. The freshman from Massachusetts was the neophyte. The veteran All-American was the mentor.

McKeon watched film of Butt running routes. He followed his lead in blocking exercises. The pair completed drills that used tennis balls instead of footballs.

One of those involved McKeon using one hand to snag balls bounced against a wall. Another involved him turning around quickly to catch balls thrown by Butt. Naturally, it took some time to adjust.

“I wasn’t too great at it at first, but after a little bit, I got a little better,” McKeon said. “That helped out a lot and just catching footballs, too. Footballs and tennis balls. It’s all about hand coordination and reaction time.”

McKeon still talks to Butt occasionally. Just two weeks ago, Butt — a fifth-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos this past spring — FaceTimed his young protégé. The two caught up on life and, obviously, football.

The latest piece of advice he gave McKeon was to strengthen his neck and shoulders while staying flexible.

Of course, there was nothing about touchdown celebrations. That’s for McKeon to learn on his own.