Oct. 12, 2007
Four years ago, two young men were brought together by the game of football as both were embarking on a new stage of their life. One hailed from the famous city of New Orleans, while the other from just down the 405 Freeway in Canoga Park. One was outspoken and gregarious, the other quiet and reserved. They were paired up as roommates and since the first day of their meeting, have been inseparable, forging a bond of friendship that will undoubtedly last for years to come.
Throughout their time at UCLA, Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes have had their share of ups-and-downs. There have been position changes, injuries and family tragedies, but through it all, this duo has stayed by each other's side helping get through the hard times.
Horton was beset by injuries early in his Bruin career and Keyes was always there to help him out, whether it was carrying a bag or helping him get food in the dorm cafeteria.
"Dennis would hassle me about having to help me out, but he's always been there for me," said Horton. "Through everything, he's always been there for me."
When Horton was unable to return to Louisiana for the holidays, Keyes and his family took him in and treated him like one of their own.
"When he can't go home and needs some of mom's cooking, I just take him to my folks' house and get him right," added Keyes. "I've been fortunate to go to college near my home and not everybody can do that."
When Horton's family was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Keyes was there by his side, helping him through the pain and loss Chris' family endured.
A few years ago, the coaching staff decided to play both Horton and Keyes at the free safety spot. Usually, the competition between men can cause conflict, but for these teammates, it only made them closer.
"We got a chance to learn together," noted Horton. "We fed off each other and all we wanted to do was help the team out."
"It didn't matter that we were splitting time at safety," said Keyes. "What mattered was that we were in there helping the team."
The coaching staff soon realized that the team would benefit more from having the duo on the field at the same time instead of splitting plays, and moved Horton back to the strong safety spot. Since then, UCLA's secondary has continued to improve with these seniors leading the way.
"When we came in together, we used to talk about how Chris and I were going to be wrecking shop in the secondary," added Keyes. "We would always talk about when it's our time to shine we were going to help this program get to the top."
The time has come for Horton and Keyes, and the Bruin football team to rejoin the upper echelon of college football and the nation is taking notice of the talent these safeties have to offer.
With the season just underway, Horton and Keyes have been recognized for their skills on the field as members of the pre-season watch list for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the top defensive back in the country. Horton is also on watch lists for the Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year) and Lott Trophy (defensive player of the year).
Neither one believes he is a vocal leader, preferring rather to lead by example and when they get out on the field and wreck shop for the Bruins, who wouldn't want to follow their lead.