SL TV: Wenning - The Definitive Story
MUNCIE, Ind. -- Keith Wenning has re-written history. He has shattered nearly every record possible. He has brought pride back to Ball State football.
The four-year starting quarterback is one of the best to ever wear a Ball State uniform. He has led the team to bowl eligibility in three straight seasons.
And, for only the third time in school history, the Cardinals have 10 wins this season.
No one needs to be told, No. 10 can play.
“The ability to be calm under pressure, and I don’t quite know how he does all that,” Mike Wenning, Keith’s father, said. “There’s times you’re sitting in the stands biting your lip and he comes walking to the line like it’s a Sunday afternoon and he’s going to go walk in the park or something. That’s a little bit of a gift.”
Nothing will ever be the same for Wenning. His name will forever be in the record books as one of the greats, but how he got here is the real story.
Born to Cindy and Mike Wenning, Keith grew up in Coldwater, Ohio, a town of less than 4,500.
“Keith is the youngest of our five children,” Cindy Wenning said. “Not to mention his father is from a family of 16 brothers and sisters, so that tells you there are a lot of cousins, over 100 cousins.”
“As a little kid he was always, always active,” Mike Wenning said. “I can still remember one time when he was a two-year old we went to Myrtle Beach, and we had bunk beds in our room. He was jumping off the top bunk bed down to the bed. You could never turn the motor off.”
Wenning stood out then as he does now. Always one of the tallest in his class, he was a quarterback from day one.
“Growing up playing at recess is where everyone got their image of me being quarterback,” Wenning said. “We would have two sides at recess playing football and I’d be the quarterback for one side, and the other team would make me be all-time quarterback for them because it wasn’t fair.”
As a kid, Wenning dreamed of playing quarterback.
First, it was for Coach John Reed at Coldwater High School. Then it was Division I football, and for Wenning, Ball State was a savior. He’d always known he was a quarterback, but Ball State was the only Division I school to offer a scholarship to play his position.
“As he was growing up, he knew he wanted to play football, and he said ‘I’m going to get a scholarship.’” Cindy Wenning said. “We believed in him, and I think he believed in himself, and I’m sure glad Ball State believed in him.”
“Some people say you can’t get those big offers, or get many offers if you don’t play multiple years at a position,” Wenning said. “I’m just thankful Ball State saw something in me and gave me the opportunity to come here and play football.”
Wenning’s parents always reminded him to remember where he came from as he was growing up. And now, four years after they sent their last child to college, he is the face of a team. He is the face of a community. His play -- and his character -- is being scrutinized by the nation. The simple advice his parents gave him as a kid is on display for the whole country to see.
“He’s the quarterback, he’s the star of this team,” Connor Ryan, Keith’s roommate and senior wide receiver, said. “He’s one of our leaders, but he’s never really put himself on a pedestal, and I think a lot of guys respect that about him, and I think that’s very important. I think that’s a quality of his not too many people have.”
“It’s so easy in this day and age to be reading the press clippings about yourself," Ball State head coach Pete Lembo said. "To be reading what’s being said on social media, and obviously there are a lot of positive things being said about Keith, and none of it has gone to his head."
Wenning owns school records in career touchdown passes, passing yards, pass completions, and pass attempts. His individual season and game statistics are simply incredible. And not only is Wenning torching the Ball State record book, he is fourth in the Mid-American conference history in touchdowns thrown.
“Coming back and seeing that, I’ll be proud of what I did here, but I’ll know that’s not all me,” Wenning said. “That’s a lot of receivers catching balls. That’s a lot of linemen protecting and putting their body out there. I know I couldn’t have done that all by myself, and I am proud of all my teammates over the four years that have helped me, and know that record isn’t an individual record, but a team record.”
Now, four years after coming to the only school to offer him a scholarship, Wenning’s seemingly far-fetched dream of playing on Sundays is becoming realistic.
“I’d lie if I said I didn’t ever think about it, but for the most part I am trying to live in the moment,” Wenning said. “I am trying to do something special here at Ball State.”
“I think he knows the order of stuff,” Mike Wenning said. “You have to finish what you start first, and I believe that’s really the most important thing to him right now.”
Wenning won’t even talk to his roommates about his NFL dreams. He is entirely focused on his last game Jan. 5, because that last game could give Ball State its first-ever bowl victory.
“If an opportunity comes down the road I’d be so thankful and grateful,” Wenning said. “I’d be hungry and work my butt off and get better each day, but right now I am just worried about Ball State football and trying to be the best I can be.”
After all the records, the wins, the friendships, if you ask Keith Wenning what he will miss the most about Ball State, it’s each and every thing about the only school that gave him a chance.
“I think I’ll miss what all goes into being a Ball State Cardinal,” Wenning said. “Whether that’s being a student, whether that’s practices, all your friends, the coaches, game days. It’s amazing to see students in your class come out and support you. It’s amazing to see the hill when it’s full. It’s a great feeling to see your student body support you, and I think that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Keith Wenning. Only four short years ago that name meant nothing.
Now, it has a presence. It carries meaning. It means the new record holder for almost every major Ball State football passing record. It means national attention for a team from Muncie, Ind.
It means dreams really do come true.
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