By LARRY VAUGHT
Not only does Frederick Douglas High School in Lexington have the top-ranked player in the 2021 Kentucky high school football rankings in offensive lineman Jager Burton, but it also has the No. 1 player in the 2022 class in receiver Dane Key.
“Dane is long, has good athleticism and ball skills, and he works really hard,” said Frederick Douglas coach Nathan McPeek. “He’s always one of our more competitive kids in practice.”
Key might not have “great” speed but McPeek says he is “fast enough and makes up for it because he is 6-3 and long.” So even if he doesn’t run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, he has other abilities many receivers do not have.
“He can catch everything. You get it close to him, he catches it,” McPeek said. “He made a one-handed catch last year that ended up on (ESPN) SportsCenter. It was that good. He understands routes and leverage. He’s only going to get better.”
He caught 33 passes for 545 yards and eight scores last year but don’t be surprised to see those numbers increase now that receiver Dekel Crowdus has returned to Frederick Douglas after playing last season at IMG Academy in Florida.
“It will help me a lot having him back,” Key said. “Last year I such a big target on me and teams double teamed me. If do that this year, then he will be open and make them pay. It was frustrating at times last year to get double teamed almost every play but then I realized if teams wanted to do that, we could just run the ball and score that way.”
Crowdus has already verbally committed to Kentucky over other big-name scholarship offers he had. Key, who also has a UK offer, says having Crowdus back does more than just help him in games.
“Everybody wants to get to the next level. Everybody works harder to be better than the one next to him and Dekel will push me every day. I like that,” Key, who is also the starting centerfielder on the baseball team, said.
Key’s father, Dante, played for Kentucky and is the linebacker coach at Frederick Douglas. His older brother, Devon, plays at Western Kentucky. It’s no wonder his football instincts are one of his best traits.
“My brother was always pushing me to work out every day with him when he was home (during COVID-19 restrictions). He knows what kind of player I can be and he pushes me harder because he knows what I can do. Me and him compete in pretty much everything we do. Anything that pops us, we compete to see who wins but that’s good for me.”
Oregon, Purdue, Tennessee, West Virginia, Michigan State, Louisville, Western Kentucky, Georgia State, Cincinnati, Maryland and Marshall have offered scholarships already along with Kentucky.
“I would not say I am surprised by the offers but it has been a little amazing to have it all fall in place like I wanted since I was a little kid,” he said. “I have a good list of offers and coaches tell me they like my body and how I am willing to work for anything and go out and do anything. I will put my body at risk to help my team win.”
His father has been a huge help already with the recruiting process.
“He’s been in this situation. He just tells me to stay focused and my time will come. He says just worry about your season and not focus on recruiting,” Dane Key said.
He doesn’t deny that the Kentucky offer was “special” for him and his family.
“I grew up going to every home game with my dad, sitting in the stands and hearing fans. All my offers are big because that means they are putting their trust in me to play at the next level but that one (Kentucky) is special,” he said.
In a normal summer with camps and workouts, he likely would have had offers from both Notre Dame and Ohio State also since he hears regularly from the Buckeyes and Notre Dame had already indicated “good news” would happen when he came to camp.
He talks frequently now with Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow.
“He is a great dude. I just love talking to him. He is my dude,” Key said.
The Frederick Douglas receiver says finding the best fit for him, a family atmosphere and a place that will develop him the most will be the deciding factors on which college he eventually picks.
Today he’s just glad that workouts started back this week for Frederick Douglas players. He’s stayed in shape working out at a friend’s facility and has been able to lift weights, do footwork drills and even run routes with a quarterback throwing to him. Most days he worked out twice.
“I am so ready to get back (on the field) and being with all my friends. We definitely know this can be our year (to win a state title) and we’re going to practice every day like we know it and then finish it this year,” Key said.