FARGO — Joe Keller didn't let Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy define him.
“He was way beyond a super fan, he was a super human being. Just that smile on his face was just something that we will never forget,” said Shanley Head Football Coach Troy Mattern.
“Usually it’s just a normal muscle weakness, I don’t really do much outside of my chair,” said Keller in a 2017 interview with WDAY.
Known as the “Shanley Super Fan,” Keller’s name was heard well beyond Fargo in his 21 years of life. If he wasn’t on the sidelines, Keller was in the stands for every Deacon sport. He also had his time to shine on the field, scoring a touchdown for the Shanley football team during his senior night in 2017.
“I was like, 'Oh, wow,' didn’t expect it, just kind of caught me by surprise,” said Keller in 2017.
“Every time I see Joe, I always tell him you still have the record. You know it was a 65-yard run. So one carry for 65 yards is a school record. I keep telling him that every time I see him, 'Joe you still have the record,' and he would just have that big smile and grin. You know that’s what a lot of people will remember him for outside of the Shanley network. Within it was so much more than a touchdown,” Mattern said.
It was more than just being a fan for Joe though, Shanley was his second family.
“It’s kind of like the NFL, you know how they have advanced scouts? Joe was that for us. It was kind of like clockwork, he would come around and have all the information he would have for us. But so passionate about sports, not just football but every sport, and all the information and intel he had it was like where did you get that? It was just truly remarkable all the ins and outs he had,” Mattern said.
State tournament time was when Joe flourished.
“Joe loved playoffs and he upped his game during the playoff season. He had the advanced scouting reports. He did a little bit more during playoff time because Joe wanted to win,” Mattern said.
Just last weekend Joe had his own chance to celebrate, reconnecting for the first time in months with his Shanley family at the Mattern’s house.
“It was ironic because my twins had their grad party last week and he was there for a couple of hours. Just to be able to see him smile and visit with all the Shanley people and make that connection again to some people he probably hasn’t seen just because with this last year of COVID we didn’t have the opportunity to see him as much,” Mattern said.
Shanley’s sidelines will feel emptier without Joe Keller, but his impact is everlasting.
“You never really believe that it’s going to be him and he’s going to go earlier than he is expected. There’s no doubt he left a legacy at Shanley High School, the state of North Dakota, in terms of athletics. And Joe Keller is one we’re going to remember forever,” Mattern said.
Joe was inducted into the Shanley Hall of Fame this year. That induction ceremony will happen this fall, but Joe did receive his plaque in a special at home presentation in March.