PALO ALTO, Calif. -- When Keller Chryst first arrived at Palo Alto (Calif.) High School, he thought of himself as “just a guy from North Carolina.”
His father, Geep, had been hired by the San Francisco 49ers as a quarterbacks coach after working for the Carolina Panthers. Chryst was a freshman. He enrolled in time to go through spring football with the Vikings. By the time his sophomore season started, he was Palo Alto’s starting quarterback.
Now, after playing two seasons across the street from Stanford’s campus, he has matured into one of the nation’s top junior prospects. The attention caught Chryst by surprise.
“All of a sudden, it just took off,” said Chryst, looking back on the past two seasons. “It was kind of shocking to me at the start, but I’m getting used to it now. It’s been a great experience overall.”
As humble as he is talented, Chryst still carries himself as a guy from North Carolina. Aside from being 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds with tremendous talent, he blends in with his teammates. He prefers it that way.
“He’s very humble,” Palo Alto coach Earl Hansen said. “He’s very smart. He knows the game really well. He’s dedicated to the game, and he works. He loves to work. Staying in shape, working in the weight room, he’s a good athlete. He is the full package.”
With his father coaching in the NFL, Chryst has always been a football fan growing up. However, when he was younger, he played just about every position other than quarterback, spending time at linebacker, safety, nose guard and cornerback.
He didn’t become a quarterback until his freshman year at Matthews (N.C.) Weddington High School. When asked why it took so long, Chryst laughed.
“I’ve always had a strong arm,” he said. “Maybe the coaches just recognized it at that point.”
Moving him to quarterback was the right decision. In his second season as the Vikings’ starter, he threw for 2,489 yards and 28 touchdowns through 11 games, leading the team to the first round of the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.
It was a successful season, but the junior had loftier goals.
“It’s a decent ending to a season, but it’s not where we would have liked to be at the end,” he said.
He is already preparing for his senior year.
“I’m really excited for next season,” he said. “We’ve already started our weight program for next season. The coaches are really on it for next year, too. I’m just really excited and I know these guys are, too.”
A member of the ESPN Watch List, the pocket passer has scholarship offers from USC, Stanford and Pittsburgh. He likes his current options, but would like to take some trips to see several SEC schools this summer. He appreciates the tradition and passion for football at schools such as Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
“The way everything feels down there, football is the main thing around town,” he said. “Everyone knows about football around there. It’s a great feeling, a great atmosphere.”
Chryst will have plenty of options.
“I don’t think there’s a limit right now,” said Hansen, when asked how good Chryst could be by the end of his senior season. “He improved so much from his sophomore to his junior year as far as technique and everything.”
As far as Chryst is concerned, there is time to sort out his future. His focus is on the time he has left with his high school teammates. There is a lot to enjoy before it is time to play in college.
“I definitely want to play college football somewhere and maybe take it to the next level in the NFL, too,” he said. “Right now, I’m just looking at next season.”