WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Leroy Keyes, a two-time All-American and Purdue football legend, first joined Purdue in 1965, during the heyday of the civil rights movement.
While on Gold and Black LIVE, a web show hosted by WLFI and Gold&Black.com, Keyes shared some of his experiences.
Today's fans may not know that part of the reason Keyes came to Purdue University was that at the time getting into a nearby college in the south was not an option for the Virginia native.
Keyes said that mentors told him that he should look north of the Mason-Dixon line when considering universities.
"The Big 10, they said 'We will recruit you,'" Keyes said.
That statement seems obvious in 2010, but could not be taken as a given in the 1960s.
Keyes said he was grateful to a southern coach who did not recruit him, Marv Levy, the coach at College of William and Mary in Virginia.
"Marv didn't want to take the first step or be the first one at a school in the south to recruit an African-American player. [...] He contacted Bernie Miller, who was on the road recruiting for Purdue, and said, 'Look, I have a kid down here who can flat-out play the game, but I can't touch him,'" said Keyes.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is next Monday. Keyes said thinking about King's legacy, and knowing that he is a part of it, "Sends a chill down [his] spine."
While Keyes was hesitant to characterize himself as a civil rights pioneer, he acknowledged that his role as an African-American student and college sports player at that time did make him one.
"The demonstration we had in 1968, I guess a lot of people thought we were going to burn down the campus," said Keyes.
But Keyes said the motive behind the demonstration was not a destructive one, but to say that "We, working together, can make things right."
Keyes ended the show with one message:
"The toughest thing for a lot of people to do is to go along with the word C-H-A-N-G-E: change. But eventually if we are going to live together, work together, whatever we do together, we are going to have to set that change in the people we come across. Everybody is not going to be the same. I don't care where you walk, about the way you talk, people have to learn [to say] 'Can I make a change? Can I make this world a better place to live in.'"
Gold and Black LIVE is a weekly hour-long web-only show hosted on WLFI.com that focuses on Purdue sports. It airs on Fridays at 2:00 p.m.
The entire hour-long show can be viewed here: http://www.wlfi.com/dpp/sports/goldblack_live/GoldandBlack-LIVE-Guest-Leroy-Keyes
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