Regan Keo is a respected member of Local 19 who has worked on Seattle’s waterfront for decades. But his profile increased dramatically earlier this year when word spread that his son, Shiloh, was playing for the Denver Broncos and heading for Super Bowl 50.
“There was a lot of buzz and excitement from so many of us who were proud of Regan, his family and his son,” said Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr.
27 years of coaching
While he’s invested decades on the docks, Regan’s true passion revolves around his devotion to coaching and mentoring young athletes.
“We’ve been coaching for 27 years now,” said Regan, who uses the word “we” intentionally to acknowledge the important role played by his wife and partner, Diana, who is an integral part of their successful and unique coaching effort. “We’re a team that does it all together,” he says, “I’m the offensive coach, and she’s the defensive coach.” The couple coaches football and softball – both fast and slow-pitch.
Philosophy of fun
The young people they mentor range in age from 7 to 14 and all of them receive the same message from Regan and Diana who believe that strong teams are built on a coaching philosophy that boils down to three words: “firm but fun!” The couple says that approach is one reason they always have an after-game BBQs for the players and their families – whether the team wins or loses. “We always try to have fun out there, and think of ourselves more as teachers than coaches,” adds Diana. “These kids are young and so open to ideas – they just sponge-up new concepts.”
One of the concepts they try to get across is respect for girls and women. The young men being taught by this veteran female defensive expert are getting more than just a novel coaching experience and valuable field strategy. The couple hopes to provide an example with lifetime impact. “We hope it teaches them to respect women and understand they can go beyond what they think is ‘normal,’,” says Regan.
Big family at home
In addition to teaching and mentoring dozens of children on the field each season, the Keo’s have kept busy over the years raising their family of seven children. Their kids all played sports at a young age, and one – Shiloh – showed some special talent at a very early age. “We both saw that he had something special when he was just seven years old,” said Regan. “We could see that he had a chance to go very far.” But the couple remained sober about what the future might hold, providing sound advice to Shiloh, their other children – and every child they’ve coached during the past 27 years.
“We’ve done this long enough to be able to tell kids that it will be hard, especially if you spend time away from your family – if you’re lucky enough to play at college,” says Regan. “We tell them to focus on their school work, and not just party – because very few of them will be able to make a living by being an athlete.”
Beating the odds
Because their son Shiloh showed remarkable speed and agility at a young age, his parents tried to prepare him for the trials and tribulations that face a promising pro athlete.
In Shilo’s case, his career began when his exceptional high school performance led to being recruited by the University of Idaho in 2006 where he made 72 tackles his freshman year and was voted MVP the next. After recovering from an injury in his junior year, he finished his senior year with another MVP award and set several college records.
Entering the NFL
Shiloh beat the odds facing most college players when he was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2011 where he made some key plays, became a team captain in 2012, and moved up to become starting safety in late 2013. Then an injury in 2014 caused him to be cut from the team. After recovering, he was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals in early 2015 – but then released later that same year.
Super Bowl bound
At the end of 2015, Denver signed Shiloh, who jumped into the last regular season game on January 3, making an interception that led to a winning touchdown. Then it was on to the AFC Championship against the Patriots on Jan 24 where he recovered an onside kick attempt by New England with 12 seconds remaining in the game, protecting Denver’s 20-18 win that sent the Broncos to Super Bowl 50.
Regan and Diana know that Shiloh still faces an uphill fight for job security in one of America’s most insecure and hazardous professions where the pay can be staggering, but most careers are shockingly brief – typically just over three years according to the Players Association union. And players also face the prospect of bankruptcy and financial ruin when they leave the game at a staggering rate of 78%, according to a recent Sports Illustrated study.
Dad remains his coach Shiloh ties to be reflective as he maneuvers his way through the obstacle course of professional sports. Many of the pros have to struggle on their own without support from two parents. Shiloh’s one of the lucky ones with a mother and father who continue to provide their son with rock solid support – something he recognizes and appreciates.
“He’s still my coach today,” says Shiloh about his father. “I come from a very big family. We have a lot of men in the family. We all grew up playing football. Everything I learned I started off learning from my family and learning from my dad.
“Once I was able to start playing, my dad was my coach until I got to high school, and it didn’t stop,” he said, explaining that the support continued when he moved away to college.
“I thought there would be no more dad coaching me. But it never stops. He’ll always be there for me, and he’ll always give me tips when he thinks I need some. He’s always there to support me. I can’t thank him enough.”
Life moves ahead
Regan Keo and his wife have no intention of ending the support for their son, the rest of their family – or the thousands of kids they’ve taught and mentored over nearly three decades.
“My longshore job was flexible enough to let us coach together all these years,” says Regan. “At some point, I’ll retire, but the coaching will continue, and we’ll keep helping these kids every second that they’re on the field, so we can help them go as far as possible in life.”