Growing up in Miami-Dade County, Florida, football was all Temple University junior cornerback Keyshawn Paul knew.
“There’s always football year round,” Paul said. “It’s competitive, everybody’s fast, there’s just some dogs out there.”
Although Miami has long been synonymous with football, Paul’s mission was never about making it to the NFL like many of the players around him. It was to get away from the 305 and experience outside where he grew up. His mission took him to the northeast to play at the University of Connecticut before transferring to Temple University in December of 2020.
Growing up in the prime era of the Miami Hurricanes’ college football dynasty, Paul watched the likes of future NFL Hall of Famers Sean Taylor and Ray Lewis play a hard-hitting, fast-paced, smashmouth version of the sport. Yet at first, Paul played a little differently.
“When he first started, he wasn’t the type of kid who wanted to get hit,” said Nakemah Parker, Paul’s mother. “They always gave him the ball because he would run really fast.”
During youth football he played as a running back and wide receiver but as he entered high school the competitiveness increased, and Paul transitioned to defense. His football journey took shape at Miami Jackson Senior High School in Miami, Florida, where he recorded 55 tackles and three interceptions his senior year.
Paul played football, basketball and ran track and field all throughout high school, but always knew football was the sport he would pursue.
“I just like hitting people,” Paul said. “In Miami it’s the most popular sport, so I just took it and ran with it.”
While he adapted to the city’s version of football by getting stronger and playing more physically, Paul remained as studious as ever. Parker understood the harsh reality of only trying to make it to the NFL, so she made school a priority before any extracurricular activity.
“If his grades dropped he wouldn’t be able to play,” Parker said. “He would tell you that education for me comes before anything.”
Paul continued excelling at sports while keeping his grades up, and during high school his skills started to stand out in a city full of talented football players. In Paul’s senior football season, Jackson High School finished 4-5 playing in Class 5A District 16, the fourth-highest Florida football division.
Although he was recruited by several Division 1 programs, Paul committed to the University of Connecticut in 2018. He played two seasons for the Huskies, appearing in a total of 23 games, but missed the 2020 season because UConn did not field a team due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He came to Temple ready to play cornerback alongside graduate student Freddie Johnson and redshirt-junior Cameron Ruiz, a Northwestern University transfer.
“The biggest thing for when Keyshawn got here was to understand the defensive terminology,” said defensive backs coach Melvin Rice. “He was able to get that under his belt in the spring.”
Through his voice and play, there is an aura of confidence Paul brings to a secondary room that was only able to register two interceptions across six games last season. He’s also made his locker room presence known with his sense of humor as the team agrees he’s one of the funniest guys, Paul said.
“There’s 24 hours in a day and I cover them all,” Paul said.
With Miami’s toughness embedded in him, Paul is not afraid to get in the face of opposing receivers. Yet, while he flies around the field looking to make plays, he also has the composure to drop back into coverage with finesse.
This season, Paul has nine tackles and one interception through three games as a starter. While that may be impressive to some, he still believes there are aspects of his game he can improve on.
“I just need to be consistent and bring the energy I always bring on game day,” Paul said. “Hopefully I can make some more picks when I get the opportunity.”
Education has remained essential to Paul during his time at Temple. Paul is an exploratory studies major, who plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice in hopes of becoming an FBI agent.
“I always wanted to be in the FBI,” Paul said. “It excites me to give back to the community, especially with everything going on right now. I just want to take advantage of my scholarship. It is all about time management.”
Paul left Miami, where his mom still lives today, yet remains close to his brother Andre Blutcher and sisters Tekima and Te’kiya Jones, with whom he maintains a great relationship, Parker said.
“I am more than grateful that he made it out,” Parker said. “He made it out of Dade County.”