From Despair to Hope
Updated: May 16, 2022
When Keanon Lowe was a student in Jesuit High School's Class of 2010, his teachers and coaches knew this remarkable young man was going places, fast.
Keanon was LITERALLY fast, as in the swiftest kid in school, a standout wide receiver and defensive back on Jesuit's football team, a state champion sprinter, and one of the most inspiring, though humble, student leaders we had seen in many a moon.
Fast forward a few years, and Keanon became a star for the Oregon Ducks, despite his modest 5' 9" stature. He also became a favorite of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who so appreciated Keanon's leadership, integrity, and ability to connect with people of all types that Chip brought him along as an NFL assistant coach with the Eagles and 49ers, even though Keanon was younger than many of the players he coached.
Then lightning struck: Keanon's best friend Taylor Martinek (also JHS '10) died back in Portland of an accidental fentanyl overdose, the tragic result of a college football injury that turned into an opioid addiction. When Taylor died, Keanon left the 49ers to return to Portland to be with friends and family.
Keanon helped coach at Jesuit, then took the head coach job at Parkrose High School in Portland, an under-resourced school whose football team had not won a game in three years.
The rest, as they say, is history. Not only did Keanon turn the team's fortunes around by pouring hope, love, and belief into his players--leading Parkrose to the playoffs for the first time in eons--but he also saved the life of a young man in despair, named Angel.
In addition to serving as head football coach, Keanon also was a security guard at Parkrose. One fateful day, he came upon Angel bringing a gun into a classroom, determined to harm himself and perhaps others. Instead of greeting Angel with violence, Keanon first grabbed the gun, which he handed off to another teacher.
Keanon then grabbed ahold of Angel himself, hugged him tight, and assured Angel that better days were ahead. Over the next few minutes, while panicked students fled and the police descended on campus, Keanon poured hope into the desperate and despairing Angel, thus averting tragedy and saving at least one young life.
Angel broke down in Keanon's arms. This series of actions, though captured on video tape , is still hard to believe, especially after so many horrifying scenes of school shootings over the past few decades.
A week after his heroics at Parkrose, Keanon addressed the Jesuit student body. He told the students that his duty (and by extension theirs) is to spread goodness, and "love, love, love" in the world.
Now 30, Keanon has so much teach all of us about the power of hope, love, and belief, on the playing field, in schools, and throughout this troubled world. Now he has put those lessons on paper, publishing a book last week called "Hometown Victory." See this review in the Washington Post:
Last week, Keanon returned to Jesuit to speak at the school's African-American student/alumni luncheon and sign copies of his hot-off-the-presses book. According to Jesuit's new principal Khalid Maxie, Keanon inspired and uplifted everyone present, transferring his own hopeful spirit into them. "Keanon knocked it out of the park," says Mr. Maxie... another hometown victory for Keanon.
With gratitude for this remarkable mentor and for the belief Keanon pours into young people, we head into a springtime of new life and blossoming hope.