Keyvan Rudd seems to know how crazy this all sounds.
Seven years removed from Davenport Central High School and three years after leaving Minnesota State-Mankato, he has developed a nice career for himself in the sports apparel business. Works for Nike. Lives in Seattle. Happy. Prosperous. Successful.
And he’s about to punt it all away for a chance to play indoor football for — at most — a couple hundred bucks a game.
Crazy? Rudd is flat-out nuts.
But he knows it so I guess it’s OK.
“It’s hometown,’’ Rudd said, trying to explain how much it will mean to him to play wide receiver for the Quad-City Steamwheelers when they begin competing in Champions Indoor Football next spring.
“As much I enjoy being home — even though I only come home maybe twice a year — this is going to be nice, in front of the hometown fans, the city is going to know you. I know the support system in this whole, entire Quad-Cities. This place is going to be full. It’s going to be packed. Just dreaming about it makes my mind go crazy.’’
Yeah, very crazy.
You have to understand where all this comes from. In his early teens, Rudd and his pal Nick Echols got a chance to come over to what was then known as the iWireless Center every week and serve as ball boys for the old Steamwheelers in arenafootball2. They would sneak into the media room, snarf down Papa John’s pizza and revel in the raucous atmosphere of the games.
The dream obviously was to someday become a star in those games himself.
It didn’t look as though that could ever happen when the Wheelers and af2 went belly-up in 2009, but Rudd managed to carve out a pretty good athletic legacy in other ways.
After playing three sports at Central, he became an All-American high jumper and a standout receiver at NCAA Division II Minnesota State.
He appeared to even have a shot at being signed to an NFL contract.
He attended the pro day at the University of Minnesota in 2013 but blew out his hamstring there and was very limited at an NFL regional combine a few days later. He couldn’t even run the 40-yard dash and hobbled through the individual part of the workout. His NFL hopes disintegrated.
He eventually healed and went to work for several years as a store manager for The Finish Line, which led to the Nike opportunity.
But he never forgot the boyhood dream. When he heard indoor football was being resuscitated in the old hometown, he knew he had to be a part of it. He hopped on a plane last week and was there in the TaxSlayer Center on Sunday morning for the Steamwheelers’ open tryouts.
“There was no way I was going to say no to this,’’ he said. “Even if it didn’t work out, it’s in my book that I tried and I went for it. I couldn’t sleep or go on with life knowing I didn’t try to take advantage of this.
“My mom, my family, would love to see me play. Not all of them were able to make it up to Minnesota State and watch me play or do track or things like that. Now it’s a five-minute drive, it’s hometown and it’s professional ball, and it can lead to better opportunities. It’s going to be nice.’’
He was one of 14 players signed by the Steamwheelers out of the tryout. Guys who are 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, can run like the wind and high jump 7 feet don’t come along that often.
Q-C coach Cory Ross said Rudd "played like he was 6-5.''
But what about that Nike job? That isn’t something you just cast aside, is it?
“I’ve already talked to my district manager and the other store manager and things like that and told them this opportunity was coming,’’ Rudd said. “I told them this early in September that this opportunity is going to come and I’m going to possibly be leaving in late February or early March so they know in advance. So, it’s really my job now to create solid relationships with the company there for, say, after the season or whatever works out, or if it doesn’t work out, I can join back.’’
CIF teams are allowed to pay housing expenses for as many as 18 players, but the whole idea of having a local tryout camp is to find guys they don’t need to subsidize. Rudd said he plans to talk to the team’s management to see what can be worked out in that area.
“It’s something I would definitely talk to coach about and see if there’s some type of meeting point that we can talk about because I know he’s excited, I’m excited to be playing for them,’’ Rudd said.
Regardless of how all that pans out, Rudd can’t wait to fulfill what feels “like a small, little dream come true.’’
“This feels different,’’ he said. “I feel like my juice levels are going to be higher because I’m home. I’m sure LeBron (James) felt the same way when he went home and (Dwyane Wade) when he went to Chicago and things like that. Just playing at home gives you a different sense of positivity for you to do better. It’s going to be amazing.’’
But he seems to know that.