Photo by Erik Andrews '09

Senior quad-captain and quarterback Nick Kehoe leads the Jeffs into battle against Colby this weekend

Nick Kehoe '07: Full Circle

By Alex Kantor

October 11, 2006

Nick Kehoe ’07 had never started a full season at quarterback until he arrived at Amherst College. He had never led his team to victories. No undefeated seasons, no Homecoming wins. Maybe that’s why after so many years at Amherst, he is the perfect man to lead this team.

At The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, Kehoe was a career back-up in an option-style offense. As a drop-back passer, he was forced out of the starting line-up, making only 10 career starts in high school. Being used mostly as a back-up made Kehoe mentally tough and noticeably mature off the field.

Head Coach E.J. Mills recalls that when Kehoe visited Amherst for football and baseball, he was talking about attending a Penn State camp. Mills had to convince him he would get better looks here. Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Don Faulstick said that when Kehoe attended their camp, “right away you could see he had a strong arm; it was almost funny he wasn’t a starter in high school.”

When Kehoe arrived in Amherst in the fall of 2003, he was a legacy at Amherst and on the football field. John Kehoe ’70, Nick’s father, was the quarterback for the Lord Jeffs, excelling under the guidance of legendary coach James Ostendarp, and was the career total passing yards record holder for 27 years.

While Nick saw limited time in 2003 and 2004, as a back-up to then starter Marsh Moseley ’05, Kehoe was always prepared on the sideline. As a first-year student, his only significant time of the season came against Little Three archrival Williams, after Moseley broke his leg against Trinity the previous Saturday. In the Williams game Kehoe completed 14 of 22 attempts for 123 yards and a touchdown, showing the Amherst faithful a spark which was only a preview to future seasons.

Kehoe said he “always heard [his] dad jaw with his uncle [a Williams graduate] about which team is better,” but he never expected the intensity of the Biggest Little Game in America. He remembers “walking out to the field for warm-ups and having five-year-olds yelling at us.”

Despite his solid season-ending performance against Williams, Kehoe resumed back-up duty for Moseley’s senior campaign. While plenty of players would have grown bitter at finding themselves on the bench while they knew they could get the job done, Kehoe took a lot from Moseley and the coaching staff.

“It was frustrating because I realized I could play, but at the same time, I knew I still wasn’t ready.” Kehoe explained, “I was still learning the system. Playing behind Marsh was extremely beneficial because I was able to learn how to prepare for games by seeing how he did it.”

For Kehoe, even though the system his high school ran was not tailored to his style of play, it came much easier that the complicated offenses of college football.

“In high school, football was never so complicated. It wasn’t about making reads. It was just option left or option right,” Kehoe explains. “If I had to go out there right away, it wouldn’t have been good.” He adds, “Marsh knew the system, and he taught me how to prepare, how to make those reads.”

After waiting his entire life to be the starter, Kehoe finally got his opportunity in 2005, when he was named the number one quarterback for the Jeffs. Last season was truly a coming-out party for Kehoe, as he finished second in the NESCAC in passing (174.2 ypg) and third in total offense (166.0 ypg), while passing for 10 touchdowns. He finished sixth in passing efficiency (125.0) in the conference, and was named First-Team All NESCAC. Highlights of his season include having then-career numbers, going 12 of 22 for 224 yards and a touchdown against Little Three rival Wesleyan at Homecoming, only to shatter those marks against Trinity two weeks later, chalking up 323 yards passing and three touchdowns on 22 of 43 passes.

Kehoe credits some of his success to a group of standout wide receivers who he has played with for four seasons, including Mark Hannon ’07 and Justin Macione ’07.
“In Division III, you don’t get those spring workouts, so it is huge to have familiarity with Mash and Hannon,” Kehoe said. “Playing football at this level is all about timing, and having all this time together gives us a major advantage.”

When Faulstick speaks about Kehoe as a player, he makes it clear that while he might not be the most vocal leader on the field, he is definitely the leader of the team. “I can go an entire practice without hearing his voice, but I just know he’s doing the little things behind the scenes.” Faulstick adds, “He really leads by example, and is a tremendous competitor.”

As far as character, Faulstick says Kehoe is “really grounded and humble. He is a great communicator with his teammates.” John Kehoe is proud of Nick’s ability to “always know how to bide his time and wait for his opportunity.” Adding that “he never stopped believing in his ability to play the game he loves.”

Mills calls Kehoe’s development “a classic success story of a kid with raw talent, totally unrefined physically and mentally, becoming a great quarterback and person.”

As an Amherst graduate and a Lord Jeff football success story himself, John Kehoe explains that “Amherst has a way of discovering people. They come here and thrive in their sport; that’s always something I felt about Amherst in the 1960s, and it’s great that Nick is part of that now.”

In the off season, Kehoe is a starting pitcher for the Amherst College baseball team. Baseball was his first love growing up, and it is his strong arm that made him realize his potential in football.

Off the field, Kehoe is a psychology major with a passion for film. He spent last summer working for a documentary production company. He credits classics such as Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski for his interest in film. Taking advantage of Amherst’s curriculum, Kehoe is enrolled in a screenwriting class which he enjoys. Kehoe plans to be involved in the film production industry somehow after graduation, but for now, he just waits for that opportunity to arise.