GREAT FALLS — When watching a Belt High School football game the first player that stands out is No. 14, Keagan Stroop, flying around the field making plays.
Stroop is a junior at Belt and a star athlete. He’s the leading receiver on the football team, starting point guard on the basketball team and finished seventh in the state in cross country. But three years ago an accident almost put an end to his athletic career.
“I was out pheasant hunting behind my house and my gun jammed up and I was trying to fix it,” Stroop said. “I wasn’t being safe and wasn’t paying attention to where it was pointed and I ended up blowing half my calf off.”
Stroop was in eighth grade, just 14 years old, when he shot off half his left calf with a shot gun while hunting in the hills behind Remington Field. His head football coach Jeff Graham remembers the accident like it happened yesterday.
“We were here, practicing on the game field when we heard a gunshot,” Graham said. “We thought it was a hunter, then all of the sudden we’re getting cops flying by and my phone’s blowing up in practice … and you know it was kind of scary, no one really knew what happened.”
When Stroop finally got to the hospital, doctors told him he probably wouldn’t be able to play sports ever again. Stroop was devastated.
“Honestly, I was pretty sad,” Stroop said. “It hit me pretty hard because I love playing football and being out with my friends.”
The average person might not be able to play sports ever again, but if there’s one thing Stroop knows, it’s hard work. This setback wouldn’t keep him from doing what he loves.
“It honestly only took me about a year to start moving and running again,” Stroop said.
But what if the prognosis had been correct?
“I’d honestly probably try to manage just so I could be out there with my friends and still kind of be involved with the game,” Stroop said.
Stroop is electric on the field. A play maker in all three phases of the game. He lives with passion know matter the circumstance and says that the injury has influenced that mentality on the field.
“It just makes me go,” Stroop said. “It makes me want to go hard and play at 100 percent all the time knowing that you never know when it’s your last play, your last down that you can be on that field playing with your friends and everyone watching you.”
Graham says that Stroop brings the same passion and energy that he has on the field into everyday life.
“What you guys see on the highlights is just Keagan all the time,” Graham said. “You know, he brings energy like that whether it’s P.E. class, cross country, track, he’s one of the most competitive kids. That’s just part of his personality and that’s part of the reason he came back from that injury so strong and so much better.”
The injury still plagues Stroop. There’s still 32 BBs in his left calf and he has to get ultrasound and his lead levels checked twice a year, but none of that slows Stroop down.