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Woody Paige: Broncos quarterback Case Keenum draws strength from support of his wife

March 24, 2018 Updated: March 25, 2018 at 11:03 am
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Case Keenum of the Minnesota Vikings, left, and Kimberly Caddell attend the 7th Annual NFL Honors at the Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jeff Lewis/Invision for NFL/AP Images)

Case Keenum and Kimberly Caddell fell for each other while slurping snow cones in Abilene, “the prettiest town you’ve ever seen,” Waylon Jennings sang.

And, ultimately, the Broncos got a twofer.

During the press conference introducing the Broncos’ “new starting quarterback,” Case constantly made plural references. “This was our first choice,” “We’re very excited to represent the city of Denver and Colorado,” “We want to play the rest of my career here.”

Kimberly and Case have been together since their first quasi-date in 2004 — when the junior starting quarterback led Wylie High School to its only state championship and Caddell, a senior who attended that game, was a volleyball player and pole vaulter at a rival school.

Although they grew up apart in Abilene, Kimberly was in a Sunday School class taught by Case’s mom. The two had many of the same friends and crossed paths, but it wasn’t until a Fellowship of Christian Athletes conference that they actually talked.

Case asked the young lady to join him afterward for a free snow cone.

The couple continued to connect at the University of Houston — the only college to offer Keenum a scholarship.

As a redshirt senior in 2010, Keenum was a Heisman Trophy candidate after passing for 5,671 yards and 44 touchdowns the previous season. But in the third game, Case tore the ACL in his right knee — and believed his dream of becoming an NFL quarterback had faded. He was depressed, became addicted to pain-killers and lost 25 pounds.

After the surgery, Kimberly moved him into her garage apartment, dressed and fed Case and helped him wean off the drugs.

In mid-January the NCAA granted Keenum a rare sixth year waiver.

A few weeks later Case took Kimberly to Houston’s stadium, where she was surprised by their families and friends. At the 50-yard line, surrounded by candles and flowers, Keenum took a knee (the good left one) and proposed.

They married in June, 2011.

Given a new start, literally, Keenum threw for 5,631 yards (71 percent) and 48 touchdowns, with only five interceptions.

Except, no NFL team drafted the quarterback who set most of college football’s passing records.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak, once an overachiever himself, gave Case a chance.

Kimberly, as always, was by his side. She memorized the Texans’ offensive playbook and tested him every morning before workouts. Nevertheless, he was relegated to the practice squad.

In 2013 Case was promoted to the roster as third-string quarterback. However, after Matt Schaub was injured, Kubiak surprisingly named Case the starter.

The Texans lost eight straight games. Keenum was out as starter, and Kubiak would be out as coach.
At the next camp Keenum was battling for a spot when the Texans came to Dove Valley for joint practices with the Broncos before their Aug. 23 exhibition. Case and Kimberly got their first look at Denver, and the Broncos got their first view of Keenum.

In the game, with Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler sharing time for the Broncos, Keenum completed 11 of 18 passes for 74 yards. “I was at (Mile High Stadium) that night, and I thought Case played well” Kimberly told me after the media conference.

However, without his mentor Kubiak, Keenum was released a week later as the Texans added Ryan Mallett.

Keenum was picked up by the Rams for their practice squad. He was cut, then returned to the scout team and, in December, was grabbed away from St. Louis by, of all teams, the Texans.

He won two games as the starter, but was traded back to the Rams and had a 3-2 record as a starter in 2015. The Rams moved to Los Angeles — and drafted Jared Goff No. 1 overall.

Meanwhile, Kimberly continued to assist Case with his playbook and study of defenses, and served as the den mother to the players’ wives, explaining the intricacies of the game.

The Broncos tried unsuccessfully in the 2016 offseason to trade for Keenum after Manning retired and Osweiler signed with, of all teams, the Texans. After starting 4-5, Keenum was back on the bench. Kimberly kept insisting that he would make it.

And, last season, Keenum, again a free agent, signed with the Vikings, and made it.

Which brings us, and them, to Denver.

“When I was young, my family would come snow skiing to Colorado, and Case and I stayed once at The Broadmoor,” Kimberly said. “Anywhere you recommend we should go?”

I said: “You two obviously should visit the U.S. Mint.”

Team Keenum has just made its own money — $36 million.

Case wouldn’t be where he is — with the Broncos — without Kimberly.

The indomitable, inspirational, inseparable, loving couple have taken Robert Frost’s “road less traveled by” to reach Denver.

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