Former QB Black still making plays for Hornets after position switch

DOVER — Keenan Black was going to see this thing through to the end, no matter what position he was playing.

The Delaware State senior has found his way onto the field at another position.

And the Hornets have found a difference-maker on special teams.

Black, Delaware State’s former starting quarterback, is now the Hornets’ primary returner on kickoffs and punts. He recorded 149 all-purpose yards in last Saturday’s 58-12 victory over Lincoln, including a 57-yard punt return touchdown.

With the Hornets (1-1) set to begin Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play this weekend when they host Howard (0-3) for homecoming at 2 p.m. Saturday, there are some who thought Black wouldn’t be here for his final season.

It’s a fairly common practice nowadays in college football for quarterbacks to transfer when they find out they’re no longer in the running for the starting job.

But Black volunteered to switch positions. As a player who only saw a combined two victories during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Black hoped to witness the DSU rebuild.

The Hornets have won four of their last six games dating back to last year.

“I knew we were going to turn it around,” Black said. “I wanted to see the new Delaware State Hornets.”

Black originally came to Delaware State as an athlete, he saw time at quarterback, wide receiver and on the punt-block unit as a true freshman. He moved to quarterback full-time as a sophomore and junior, receiving a combined nine starts over those two years.

But with Delaware State welcoming four new quarterback recruits this offseason, plus junior Shayne Smith, the writing was on the wall for Black’s future at the position.

He approached the coaching staff about switching to defensive back before camp started. The Hornets not only tried him out there, but at punt returner. Black soon won the No. 1 job.

“That’s a guy who has really sacrificed everything to be a Hornet,” said DSU second-year coach Rod Milstead. “He was a quarterback, he was a receiver, now he’s a defensive back and a punt returner. When he leaves Delaware State, he can actually tell people, ‘I’ve done it all and I’ve left everything on the field,’ because he’s done everything we and the previous coaching staff have asked him to do and has done it without complaining.”

Along with being a returner, Black is a backup safety for the defensive unit and has recorded two tackles so far this year. Milstead said he remembers being shocked when Black brought up the move to defensive back.

“I kind of just looked at him,” Milstead said. “But we asked the defensive coaches and they said, ‘Send him over.’ He’s been working really hard. No, he’s not a starter but he’s prepared to play and he’s done a good job when he gets in there.”

When Black took the field in the season opener Aug, 29 at Delaware, it was the first time in his life he had returned kicks in a real game at any level. He only had two returnable punts, gaining 27 yards total.

He broke out in a big way last Saturday. Not only did he score on his 57-yard punt return but he added a 61-yard kickoff return.

“It’s fun, being that I’ve never done it before,” said Black. “It feels like I’m back in Little League football. Just going back there, finding a crease and trying to get north with the ball. I can’t do it without the great blocking up front. I give credit to them. Without them, I can’t do anything.”

“It couldn’t have happened to a better person,” Milstead said.

Black said he was always going to end his career in Dover and the thought of transferring never entered his mind.

“I trust the process,” Black said. “I give all glory to God for one. It was adversity when we were losing games but I’m trusting what Coach Milstead and the rest of the coaches are saying and trusting the guys around me.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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