Lifted up

 

Mikey Keen set state records in the bench and deadlift this summer.

Mikey Keen is no stranger to records.

The 15-year-old Culpeper native is a five-time state champion in football, a national champion in wrestling and this summer he added more accolades to a growing resume – state records in powerlifting.

Working with Gold’s Gym strength and training Matt Stanton, Keen increased his bench press by 27 pounds, his squat by 75 pounds and his deadlift by 45 pounds during the summer.

A football player by trade, Keen was working to be ready for the season at St. John’s in Washington, D.C., where’s he’s seeing play on varsity as a freshman.

From the moment Stanton laid eyes on him, he knew he was a physical specimen.

“He started fast,” Stanton said. “He’s probably the biggest increase I’ve had in three months.”

He set the state record for the United States Powerlifting Association at 352 pounds in the deadlift and 226 pounds in the bench. It was just another notch in the belt for Keen, who has high expectations and lofty goals when it comes to football.

“Hopefully I’ll try to make it to a D-I school, study, get my education but the dream is to make it to the NFL,” Keen said.

Football is his number one love, but he’s proficient in other sports. He’s a national champ in wrestling through the Mid Atlantic Wrestling Association and now he has state records in powerlifting. His mindset is he can do whatever he sets out to accomplish.

“It’s pretty hard, you have to put in a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work but it all pays off,” Keen said.

He drew the attention of St. John’s last fall, playing for the Maryland Heat. Now a freshman, he’s seeing time on kickoffs and hopes to play at linebacker by the end of the year on varsity. On junior varsity, he’s playing running back on offense and linebacker on defense. He was drawn to St. John’s in part due to their reputation, as they are ranked in the Top 25 in the country.

“St. John’s has good academics, the coaches are good and the team is good,” Keen said.

Working at Gold’s Gym this summer helped him keep up with the team, as he wasn’t able to train with them being so far away.

“Working with Matt has prepared me a lot,” Keen said. “I’ve built up my muscles and I went up there ready for St. John’s. I wasn’t behind.”

Keen had trained before, but he had never attempted a deadlift prior to this summer’s training. He quickly took to it.

“When I started working out with Matt, I don’t think I had deadlifted at all and I found out I could go up there and break the state record,” Keen said. “It surprised me for how good I was, for having done it before.”

Keen has been successful in just about every venture. In addition to sports, he shows pigs for 4-H.

“I love hanging out with animals and I love raising them,” Keen said. “That’s the one time of a year I get to hang out with my friends and have a showcase with them.”

According to his dad, Michael Leavell, Keen has always had the work ethic to go along with his talent.

“If he’s not first, he feels like he’s last,” Leavell said. “He can’t stand second place, he pushes himself. He has pushed himself since he was a kid. He and I spend a lot of time driving and putting in the effort. He sees something he wants, he goes and get it.”

While he’s motivated, he doesn’t forget his beginnings. One of the more striking aspects of talking to the 6-foot-1-inch 15-year-old is his manners. Every question is met with a “yes, sir,” a trait that has been taught at home.

“I’ve been taught from a young age to always be humble,” Keen said.

Stanton, a former football player himself at Culpeper County High School, said those manners set him apart.

“It was ‘yes, sir,’ after everything,” Stanton said. “I train a lot of kids and not many of them are as well-polished as he is.”

Leavell, who played football for CCHS, has been a tireless coach and cheerleader for his son.

“I’ve always told him I wanted him to be better than me and he’s surpassed me by 10 times over,” Leavell said. “Everybody that knows me knows I’ve done some bad things, so it’s nice to see my son learn from my mistakes and go to another level.”

The close knit family gets together every weekend, when Keen comes home from St. Johns. They attend church together and watch football before he heads back at the end of the day on Sundays.

“I cried like a baby the first three weeks,” Leavell said with a laugh.

For Keen, the work is never done. After a recent tough loss, he was ready to go back to look at the film and learn from his and his team’s mistakes.

“I have to worry about making my reads, keep up on my skills and go back to work,” Keen said.

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