Sunday won't merely be Case Keenum's first start of his NFL career, it also will be the first game of his pro career. After going undrafted in 2012 and spending all of last season on the Houston Texans practice squad, Keenum is getting a chance with Matt Schaub out injured.
An Abilene, Texas, native, Keenum left the University of Houston as the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yardage (19,217) touchdowns (155). But due to his lack of ideal physical tools, Keenum didn't hear his name called in the NFL Draft and has yet to be active for a NFL game.
That will change on Sunday as Keenum's first NFL start comes against the Kansas City Chiefs in one of the more hostile venues in the league for a visiting team -- Arrowhead Stadium.
Why did Keenum go undrafted? Below average size (6-1, 208), average-at-best arm strength and limited mobility to do much with his legs. His ball appears to flutter, especially when he doesn't have a chance to wind up and step into his throws. Keenum holds several NCAA passing records, but those numbers came in an offense that inflated his statistics and allowed him to take advantage of a quick passing attack where he didn't need to make extensive pocket reads. He wasn't asked to consistently make NFL throws as the Cougars quarterback and at the end of the day, his lack of ideal physical tools were enough for teams to pass.
So why should Texans' fans be encouraged with Keenum at the helm of the offense? He's resilient, tough and very smart -- all qualities that cannot be measured by a scale or 40 time. Keenum makes quick decisions with astute pre-snap reads to have a clear understanding of what the defense is doing and where to distribute the football. He has a natural feel for the field and pocket with good passing vision despite his stature that is a shade under 6-foot-1. A mature, determined individual, Keenum is the son of a coach and has battled through multiple injuries, including an ACL tear in 2010 that ended his season.
If you compare Keenum to other quarterbacks in the NFL, he won't match-up because his physical tools just aren't up-to-par. But his resolve and heart are why he's still collecting a NFL paycheck and why he will start and play in his first professional game on Sunday.
Are the intangibles enough for him to overcome his shortcomings and find success at the pro level? The deck is stacked against him, but few thought he would ever start a game in the NFL so why not?