The Stillwater Ponies football program has some big shoes to fill with the resignation of varsity defensive line coach Bryan Keister.
The owner of Keister and Keister Insurance Agency in Stillwater, Keister’s role has changed since his father Steve, the agency’s co-owner, began to ease into retirement and Keister himself became a father.
“My agency requires more of me now than it did prior,” Keister said. “Moreover, I want to squeeze every moment of family time possible with my daughter.”
Keister, a 1995 graduate of Stillwater Area High School, was a two-year starter for the Ponies in 1993-1994. An All Conference defensive tackle as a senior, Keister went on to play four years at the University of St. Thomas where he would attain All MIAC honors as a senior as well.
As Keister learned the family business, he joined the varsity staff in 2003, a post he would hold for 11 years. The experience has had an indelible impact on him.
“I have a great sense of pride having given back to the program that I gave blood, sweat, and tears to in high school. Coaching at Stillwater truly helped me understand what it means to be a part of a community and a program that goes beyond Xs and Os and wins and losses.”
Keister has appreciated seeing former players – those he watched growing up, those he played with and those he coached – continue their interest in the program. He enjoyed seeing the sense of pride the former players exude.
“They understand what it means to be a Stillwater Pony,” he said. “It is very satisfying knowing that you have helped mold some great men, through a great game, in a fantastic program with such great history.”
Keister gave a little more to the Ponies than your average football player or coach. In fact, in both roles, his health was in question.
During his senior year, incorporating a summer long carbohydrate load to gain weight, Keister nearly lost his life. Fortunately, he was able to recuperate in time for stellar campaign.
Furthermore, Keister had a heart arrhythmia as the Ponies battled from behind at Hastings to secure the 2012 Suburban East Conference Championship. Though minor, the event earned our coach a halftime trip to the emergency room.
“I’ve had some close calls,” Keister said. “I was fortunate health-wise and glad I didn’t miss much practice or game time.”
On a lighter note, his wardrobe should be safer going forward. Keister, always willing to grab a three-point stance to demonstrate a technique, has had to do some shopping after practice.
Keister does not “foresee tearing any pants doing insurance.”
Keister recognized that it was not until he started coaching that he understood the game beyond his position. Moreover, he learned that coaching football is not just skills, drills and techniques.
Rather, he said, “It’s helping a young man grow, take responsibility for his part in the team, develop, and then send him out to see what he can accomplish. I can honestly say, I have loved my coaching career tenfold over my playing career, and am truly blessed for the opportunity to coach at Stillwater.”
Keister intends to visit practice and be helpful in the future. Keister’s passion and pride for Ponies football and his painstaking attention to detail have helped us set the line of scrimmage for over a decade. All players, staff, fans, and families are fortunate that he will stay connected to the program in some way.
The coaching position will be posted in the spring.