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Hall calls for Keys: Former MSU star will be inducted into state's Sports Hall of Fame


Danny P Smith



People will be talking this weekend about Tyrone Keys. 


But while the topic -- football -- will be the same, the memories from all of the teams Keys played on will be different. 


Many of the stories about Keys will be heard when the former Mississippi State standout is inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson. 


There''s sure to be talk about Keys'' time as a Bulldog from 1977-80. 


Discussion also is bound to swing to the time Keys played in the Super Bowl for the Chicago Bears, or when he was a member of a state championship Jackson Callaway High School squad that won 22 games in a row. 


For MSU junior walk-on strong safety Fred Burns and former Bulldog Nate Peoples, now the strength coach at the University of Central Florida, Keys means so much more. 


Burns and Peoples were part of All-Sports Community Service that Keys founded to assist high-risk youth. Keys is the president of the Tampa-based firm. 


Burns said Keys'' positive attitude made an impression on him. 


"His attitude toward life is amazing," Burns said. "He''s always positive and doesn''t allow me to say anything negative around him. He makes a positive out of everything. He believes in God so much and his faith is strong." 


Burns said Keys has helped him in several aspects of his life, but mainly spiritually and academically. 


Keys said Burns has "beat the odds" and became class valedictorian of his high school. 


The doors Keys directed Burns to led him to the Bulldogs. 


"He introduced me to a lot of people here at Mississippi State, but he only opens the door for you," Burns said. "He lets you walk through." 


Burns is finishing summer workouts at MSU and is looking forward to the start of preseason practice Aug. 3. 


Keys enjoys the satisfaction he gets from working with Burns and others. 


"Just being able to help kids achieve their dreams goals and aspirations has been wonderful," Keys said. 


Peoples, who played for the Bulldogs in 1997, calls Keys "one-of-a-kind" and said he wouldn''t be where he is if it weren''t for him and MSU assistant strength coach Richard Akins. 


"The relationship with Tyrone hooked me up to a walk-on opportunity, and everything blossomed from there," Peoples said. "Without Tyrone, I don''t meet Richard Akins and without Richard Akins, I don''t get my foot in the door as far as being a strength coach at UCF." 


Peoples said Keys was a mentor and always has been there to offer advice. 


Even though he has three older brothers, Peoples said having Keys around when he was being recruited to play football in college was instrumental to him walking on and eventually earning a scholarship with the Bulldogs. 


"You are not going to find a better human being," Peoples said. "You won''t find many people who will give back and care as much as he does. That''s the thing he has been able to do for me (and) the countless number of kids in the Tampa Bay area and (in) his home state of Mississippi." 


Keys played defensive end at MSU and is second on the career sacks list with 26. He was an All-Southeastern Conference selection in 1978, 1979, and 1980. 


After being drafted by the New York Jets in the fifth round (113th pick) of the 1981 draft, Keys went on to play for the Chicago Bears from 1983-85, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1986-87), and the San Diego Chargers (1988). Keys played with the Bears in Super Bowl XX in 1985. 


Keys said the 22-game winning streak and winning the Big Eight state championship at Callaway are two of his favorite memories, but MSU''s 6-3 win against Alabama in 1980 was the highlight of his college career. 


"We chose not to be denied," Keys said. "It was one of the most memorable games and one of the biggest upsets in college football at the time." 


Keys recalls preparing for Alabama''s wishbone offense and that coach Emory Bellard, the inventor of the wishbone, was sure the Bulldogs could figure out how to stop it. 


Keys has driven past and visited the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame many times. He cherishes the stories about the late Walter Payton, who was his teammate with the Chicago Bears. 


"It was always great to go in there, watch his story, and share his story," Keys said. "Now to be a part of it, it is a great thing for me and my family." 


Keys said he didn''t know he would be inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame. He said the experience gives him another opportunity to share with the children in his program what positive things can happen to someone who takes the right path. 


Former University of Mississippi basketball player and Millsaps coach John Stroud, former PGA tournament director Robert Morgan, former Southern Miss football coach and MSU assistant Jim Carmody, and Hugh Green, a Natchez native, Heisman Trophy runner-up, and All-American football player at the University of Pittsburgh, also will be inducted. 


Keys said it is ironic that 33 years after he and Green went their separate ways as Mississippians they will be reunited at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. 


"I tell him all the time Mississippi State was the best thing that ever happened to me," Keys said. "After he went to Pitt and started receiving all of those accolades, it made me start thinking I should have went to Pitt, but my love for Mississippi State and the people I met there was definitely worth it. I love coming back to Mississippi State every year." 


The 47th annual BancorpSouth Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Induction weekend will be Friday and Saturday. 


A banquet is scheduled at the Hilton Convention Center in Jackson. The reception will start at 5:30 p.m. Friday. 


A gathering of the inductees will be from 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday, and the $5,000 Drawdown of Champions will be at 7 p.m. Saturday. 


Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-280-3286 or 601-982-8264.



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