Shiloh Keo of Archbishop Murphy High School was out of football and considering the end of his career in December when he took a chance and sent a tweet to Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Sunday he’ll be playing for the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — It would be a stretch to say that Twitter saved Shiloh Keo’s NFL career and put him in the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.
Let’s just say that the product of Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett owes social media an assist for abetting the most amazing comeback story at this year’s Super Bowl.
Here’s the back story: Keo spent much of the 2015 season at home in limbo, desperately trying to hook on with a team. After three seasons mostly as a backup safety and special-teams captain with the Houston Texans, Keo injured his calf and then was cut early in the 2014 season. He went to training camp this year with the Cincinnati Bengals, but they cut him, too.
Shiloh Keo file
Height: 5 feet 11
Age: 28 (born: Dec. 17, 1987)
High schools: Woodinville and Archbishop Murphy in Everett
Drafted: Fifth round in 2011 by Houston
NFL experience: Fourth season
Keo had some feelers throughout the year, but by December, he still remained unsigned at home in Boise, Idaho. With two young children — and another on the way — he was beginning to contemplate life after football.
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“I hadn’t had official thoughts about it, but this past two years has been really hard on myself and my family, just sitting at home, waiting for an opportunity,’’ he said Monday.
“But to be a man, be responsible — I have a wife and kids — so we were definitely preparing for that. I was making my connections, trying to network, because I thought eventually I want to go into coaching.”
Keo knew it was getting perilously close to the end of another season, making it increasingly unlikely teams would have openings. But he decided to make one final stab, contacting any of his old coaches he could find. No one had anything for him.
Then Keo’s wife, Keanna, saw online that the Denver Broncos had issues at safety after injuries to Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward and David Bruton. She relayed the news to Keo, who decided to reach out to Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, whom he knew from his Houston days.
One problem: Keo didn’t have Phillips’ cellphone number. Being that it was 2015, no problem. He tweeted at Phillips instead.
“I knew Wade was on Twitter a lot, so I figured that would be the next-best thing, and it worked out,’’ Keo said.
But not immediately. The Broncos re-signed safety Josh Bush instead, causing Keo to tweet to Phillips’ “Son of Bum” twitter account: “didn’t want to pick me up, huh?”
Phillips tweeted back, “Keo — Josh was with us in camp and first 4 games-u know how much I think of you-hope that little Keo is doing well.”
Keo’s response: “I hear ya, still the same system tho. Little man is doing great. Keep me in mind tho if things don’t pan out.”
Sure enough, on Dec. 9, the Broncos announced they had signed Keo, citing a need at safety and his familiarity with their system.
Phillips says now, “Shiloh found me on Twitter, but we had already talked about Shiloh …(general manager) John Elway knew about him. Once we got another safety hurt, we said, ‘Hey, Shiloh is the next guy.’ ”
Playing in the regular season for the first time in nearly two years, Keo made an impact on the Broncos’ drive to the Super Bowl. First, he had a key interception of Philip Rivers to clinch a win over the San Diego Chargers in the regular-season finale that wrapped up the No. 1 playoff seed for Denver. Then he recovered the onside kick in the AFC title game to secure the Broncos’ victory over New England that put them in the Super Bowl.
With the ball safely cradled in his arms, “there were so many mixed emotions going through,’’ Keo said. “I was just so excited because I understood the ramifications of what just happened. That we won the game and we were going to the Super Bowl.
“Any football player, they dream of not only making it to this level, but playing in this game. After I held on to that ball, it was all your dreams coming true.”
Keo couldn’t help reflecting back to all his friends, family, coaches and teachers back home in the Woodinville/Bothell area where he grew up, and at Archbishop Murphy.
“I just feel like they have a lot to do with the reason why I’m still playing and the reason why I’m at this moment now,” he said.
Keo’s first call after the AFC title game was to his wife, who was at the game but got separated from him in the commotion. The second call was back home to his dad, Regan, Keo’s coach throughout his youth.
“He’s still my coach today,” Keo corrected. “I come from a very big family. We have a lot of men in the family. We all grew up playing football. Everything I learned I started off learning from my family and learning from my dad.
“Once I was able to start playing, my dad was my coach until I got to high school, and it didn’t stop. I thought, ‘ooh, finally. No more dad coaching me.’ But it never stops. He’ll always be there for me and he’ll always give me tips when he thinks I need some. He’s always there to support me. I can’t thank him enough.”
One of the seminal moments of Keo’s career occurred after his sophomore year, when he transferred from Woodinville, a Class 4A school, to Archbishop Murphy, a 2A school. He said that the decision was motivated by his mom’s belief that moving to a smaller private school would help his academic struggles.
“And football-wise, I just felt I needed a change,’’ he said. “I sat down with my family. It was a big decision for me. I grew up my whole life in Woodinville, with all my buddies. … I was just so close with those guys.”
Keo left for Archbishop Murphy during preseason two-a-days, switching schools so abruptly he was actually practicing in Woodinville colors when he started at Murphy.
“Everyone was going, ‘Who is this guy?’ I felt so out of place,’’ he said.
Keo firmly believes that transferring was the right decision. He says late Archbishop Murphy coach Terry Ennis was “like a father away from home for me,” but Keo does have one regret.
“It was so short notice, I didn’t really communicate with anybody,’’ he said. “It was, OK, decide and go. I always regret not saying my goodbyes, but things worked out for the good and I’m glad I did it.”
A successful tenure at the University of Idaho followed, leading to a fifth-round selection by the Texans in the 2011 draft. Then Keo’s stalled career was jump-started with a little help from Twitter, and now he finds himself on the biggest stage in sports.
It’s a script he couldn’t have even imagined two months ago when he was getting ready to move on with his life.
“It’s beyond any dreams I’ve ever had,’’ he said.