When Keenan Hale goes back home to visit Conyers (Ga.) he typically has some explaining to do. The kids he grew up with on the outskirts of Atlanta wonder how, in the three years since he has been a boarding student at McCallie, their friend became a country music loving hunter and fisherman.
"I just tell them it's a Tennessee thing," Hale said with a laugh. "Since I've been in Chattanooga I realized there are some things you just have to go along with. I like a lot of country music and listen to it all the time now, especially Kenny Chesney's music.
"When I first got here, I went hunting with a friend and got hooked. Now I've killed five six-point deer and three wild boar. It's a big adrenaline rush and one of the most fun things you can do with your friends."
Athletics has been another bonding experience at McCallie for Hale and will likely also open the door to a bright future for the 6-foot-3, 188-pound senior. An accomplished track athlete who finished second in last spring's Division II state decathlon, Hale's combination of speed and leaping ability has made him a coveted receiver prospect with offers from Syracuse University and Samford and several other programs recruiting him heavily. He is the area's No. 8-rated college prospect on this year's Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen.
"As our offense is evolving, we'll still try to run the ball first but with his speed we're working on all kinds of different ways to get him the ball," McCallie coach Rick Whitt said. "Whether it's sending him deep, getting him the ball in space or on reverses, we know he can make big plays if we can just get him the ball.
"I think Keenan is a very good college prospect because the Lord has blessed him with good size and he can really run and jump. As we continue to get him the ball more, he'll find ways to make plays and open more eyes."
Hale showed his big-play ability last year against Brentwood Academy when he had more than 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns, all by simply outrunning the defense to turn the corner on jet sweeps. At last spring's Optimist track meet, Hale competed in four events in about one hour, placing in the top three in each.
Another hobby that would likely cause a few inquisitive stares is Hale's game-day tradition of waking up at 6 a.m. to go to McCallie's Spears Stadium and lying down on turf at the 50-yard line.
"I lay right in the middle of the 'M' and just relax and try to visualize myself doing big things in the game we have that night," Hale said. "I started doing that my sophomore year, before I was even a starter, just dreaming of big things. Luckily, I haven't seen anybody else around the stadium at that hour so far.
"Now, I'm hoping to get to use my ability in a lot of different ways to help us win more games this year. There is a confidence boost from doing so well in several events in track and its given me a belief that I'm quicker or faster or can outjump anybody to go get the ball and make a play."