Keegan Kolesar pairs professional athlete bloodlines with the rocks of his life
There’s something about Keegan Kolesar’s personality. The powerful Chicago Wolves forward is unguarded and straight-forward. You get into a conversation with him and it’s just fun. You want to be unguarded and straight-forward, too.
Perhaps it’s a trait the strapping 6-foot-2, 223-pound young man picked up from his grandma, Barb Cornett, who lives in Brandon, Manitoba. When the author of this article suggests he might want to talk with his grandma, Keegan suggests the conversation might last three hours.
“She would talk your ear off,” Keegan said. “She would not stop. You would almost feel like she’s hugging you when she’s talking to you on the phone. If you saw her in person, the next time she comes up, she probably would hug you. She’s a hugger. She loves it. She’s just such a kind person. The best woman I know.”
We bring this up because any 21-year-old who reveres his grandmother this much – Keegan proudly notes she’s featured in 25 percent of his Instagram photos – deserves the chance to help determine the cover photo for his Breakaway feature. Few are offered the opportunity…and he doesn’t waste it.
Because he’s a professional hockey player – yet could have been a high-level football player or baseball player and loves to shoot hoops and fish in the summertime – he thinks a cover photo highlighting several sports sounds like a great idea.
“Kind of like a knockoff version of Bo Jackson,” Keegan said. “ ‘Bo Knows…“Keegs” Knows.’ ”
So that’s how the cover photo for this article comes to pass, but the story behind his sports journey comes out even better.
TWO DADS AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL…AND ONE MOM WHO PUT KEEGAN FIRST
Now it’s time for everyone to take the same quick test the author administered to Keegan while chatting for this story.
“OK. Quiz time. Your father, in his first NFL game, did he have an interception? And, if so, who did he intercept?”
“I’ve got no idea,” Keegan responded with a smile. “I don’t know the stats on him or my stepdad. I’ve got NOTHING.”
What if I said it was Brett Favre?
“I’d call you a liar. It can’t be. Brett Favre?”
Yep, it’s true. On Sept. 12, 1999, while making his NFL debut for the Oakland Raiders against the Green Packers, 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker K.D. Williams picked off a Favre pass, recovered a fumble and made 7 tackles. The following week against the Minnesota Vikings, he sacked Randall Cunningham.
Keegan says he has no idea who Randall Cunningham might be. It makes sense. He was in diapers in Manitoba at the time – and his parents were no longer together. To explain why they weren’t together, we introduce Keegan’s mom: Corrinne Peterson.
K.D. and Corrinne met in the mid-1990s when K.D. started his professional career with the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In his rookie season, he set a league single-game record with six tackles for loss. In short, he could play.
But in 1997, the year Keegan was born, K.D. was traded out of Winnipeg to Saskatchewan and then Hamilton. Moreover, he still had aspirations to make the NFL that required some time in NFL Europe in order to prove himself.
Corrinne decided it wasn’t ideal for her newborn son if they chased those dreams all over the globe with K.D. Instead, she decided to move to Brandon to live near her father, Nick Cornett, and her stepmother, the aforementioned Barb.
“The path was all about Keegan,” Corrinne said. “Both of my relationships, my focus was on Keegan. I made choices that were best for the kids.”
In 2002, an outfielder named Charles Peterson joined the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the independent Northern League. Charles not only was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round pick in the 1993 MLB draft, he was a brilliant football player as well. As a high school quarterback, he won South Carolina’s
Gatorade Player of the Year award in 1992 and was recruited by the biggest schools. Instead, he opted to play baseball.
Charles and Corrinne met in Winnipeg, fell in love and married in 2003. When Keegan says “dad” in a conversation, he means Charles (even though Charles and Corrinne divorced in 2012).
“I was happy with the system I had around myself,” Keegan said. “My stepdad came in and there was no awkward period. There was no trying to get used to this guy. There was no calling him ‘Charles or ‘stepdad.’ It was Dad right from the start.”
As a youngster in Winnipeg, football was Keegan’s first sport. He remembers eventually joining the North Winnipeg Nomads when he was a sixth-grader and stepping right in at middle linebacker for a championship team – though he admits Charles’ influence might have helped him get the “good gig.” This might have been when Keegan developed the same fearless mindset he brings to the ice every night.
“There were times when I wouldn’t care who I was going up against, I would run into them full-blast,” he said. “If I felt like I could blitz – even if I wasn’t allowed to – I was blitzing. I just wanted to sack the quarterback. Anything I could do, I wanted to do it. And our team was that good where I could take a risk like that and we’d be fine. I mean, we were 12-0 that year. Won the championship. Spanked them.
“And then my dad set up a tournament for us in North Dakota. It was like the Wells Fargo Cup or whatever. My stepdad set that up because he knew a bunch of teams from that area. And we came there and we fleeced ‘em. We absolutely took their lunch money. It was hilarious. We were just like, ‘Man, is this what States teams are like?’ They were traveling States teams, so those teams are usually good. Stacked. And we just embarrassed ‘em. Canadian football, it’s
not that bad.”
HOCKEY BECOMES HIS PASSION
Charles and Corrinne always figured Keegan was on a path toward college football – in part so he could get an education while pursuing his chosen sport. But then he fell in love with hockey – and dropped football like a sacked quarterback.
“I think he wanted to go a direction where K.D. wasn’t going and Charles wasn’t going,” Corrinne said. “He chose the path least traveled.”
After getting cut from his hockey team at 11, Corrinne set up Keegan with trainers to catch up for lost time. The next year, he wound up captaining the Winnipeg AAA Hawks – and connecting with a group of guys he still considers his best friends. That started his path toward his stellar junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
Shortly after leading the Thunderbirds to the 2017 WHL title, Keegan was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Vegas Golden Knights for an NHL second-round pick. He has been with the Wolves for the last two seasons and really started making a difference over the last two months. Paired on the top line with veterans T.J. Tynan and Curtis McKenzie, Keegan produced six goals and eight assists in 16 games – his best stretch as a pro.
“The offensive production is now starting to show itself,” said Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson. “Now his game is starting to hit its stride. It’s just the right time of the year to do it. He’s an important player and he’s a playoff-type player. He showed that in junior. You get in the trenches in the playoffs and it gets more physical and that just feeds to his strengths. He’s progressing nicely.”
While his bloodlines matter, Keegan knows exactly who to thank for getting him this far.
“My mom is everything,” he said. “She has gone to battle for me more than anyone. She’s gone to lengths and distances beyond belief for me. She’s amazing.
“And my grandparents have been huge for me as well. When I was born, we lived with them for a time. And if I ever needed somewhere to go or somewhere to be, it was always my grandparents. Even today, if I needed them to come out here and help me out with anything, they’d be here in a heartbeat. Those three are the biggest rocks I have in my life.”