Keanu Reeves: A Tribute to Ohio State's Least-Remembered Quarterback

By Nicholas Jervey on July 5, 2015 at 7:15 am

Keanu Reeves is one of the greatest actors of this or any generation.

His command of body language, facial expressions and vocals are flawless. He is the toast of the town in Hollywood, and his success is richly deserved. Yet his acting success has overshadowed how he got his start – as an Ohio State Buckeye.

Not one but two of Reeves' documentaries have made reference to Reeves' time in Columbus: The Replacements, a gritty take on Reeves' career as a replacement quarterback for an NFL team on strike, and Point Break, a light-hearted look at when he infiltrated a group of surfers who robbed banks.

A cursory Google search would suggest Keanu Reeves' movies are fictional, and that he dropped out of high school to start acting. Google lies! Here, I tell his true biography.


Born in Lebanon (Ohio, not the country), Keanu Reeves grew up with a deep appreciation for Buckeye football. A moderately successful quarterback for Lebanon High School, Reeves drew scholarship offers from mid-major schools like Akron, Toledo and Western Michigan. Little did he know one stroke of fortune would change his life.

In the wee hours of National Signing Day 1993, Stanley Jackson informed Ohio State's coaching staff that he would instead sign with Notre Dame. Panicking, John Cooper immediately offered Reeves a scholarship, since he was the top unsigned quarterback in Ohio.

Reeves accepted, but only under one bizarre condition: that he be referred to as "Shane Falco" for all football purposes. Although Cooper was baffled by the request, he agreed, and Reeves signed with the Buckeyes as the sole quarterback in the class.

Reeves was almost an academic casualty: he was failing his history class and needed to get an A+ on a final report to pass the class. But with the help of his good friend Bill Preston and a time machine, they were able to learn enough about different time periods to pass the course and go to college. His experience was lightly fictionalized in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (Ted was a more marketable name than Keanu).


Keanu Reeves began his career as a benchwarmer. After redshirting in 1993, he backed up Bobby Hoying as a freshman and sophomore. A criminology major, Reeves got into contact with law enforcement and served two summer internships with the FBI during this time.

In 1996, Reeves finally got his chance to shine, sharing a quarterback rotation with sophomore Joe Germaine. Working with a two-quarterback system, the Buckeyes went 11-1 and won the Rose Bowl, denied a national championship only by a fluke loss to Michigan. It was bittersweet for Reeves, who seriously injured his knee in the win.

Reeves surprised everyone when he announced he would rehab and return for his senior season. It paid off; a shoulder injury to Germaine made him the unquestioned starter. Known mostly for his running ability, Shane Falco shocked the football world by throwing for 3100 yards and 28 touchdowns, eventually finishing third in Heisman voting behind Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning.

Despite another heartbreaking loss to Michigan, Reeves would lead Ohio State against Florida State in the Sugar Bowl with a chance to win a national championship. And then he fell apart.

The Seminoles defense battered Reeves all game, and he had the worst game of his career: 8-of-33 passing for 38 yards and five interceptions, as Ohio State lost 52-7. This performance earned him an unflattering nickname: "Footsteps" Falco, for "hearing footsteps" on a phantom sack he took in the fourth quarter. He would later describe this sensation as "quicksand":

You're playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can't move... you can't breathe... because you're in over your head. Like quicksand.

Although the Dallas Cowboys would select Shane Falco in the fourth round of the NFL draft, his nagging knee injury and a series of his concussions ended his career. He disappeared into obscurity.


After his burnout, Keanu Reeves had little choice but to use his criminology degree. Using connections he made during his FBI internships, Reeves enrolled in the FBI Academy at Quantico, where he was assigned the code name "Johnny Utah". Reeves excelled, finishing in the top two percent of his class, and was sent to California to stop a group of bank robbers known as the Ex-Presidents.

Reeves infiltrated the gang, and although his identity was uncovered he managed to stop the Ex-Presidents. The experience jaded him, though, and he quit the FBI.

Reeves moved back to Washington, where he made a living cleaning the bottom of peoples' boats and returned to the "Shane Falco" alias. A couple years later, Coach Jimmy McGinty offered him a once-in-a-lifetime chance: play quarterback for the Washington Sentinels, all of whom had gone on strike. Though Reeves was leery, he accepted the offer, led the team to the playoffs, got the girl and found redemption.

Capitalizing on his new-found fame in leading the Washington Sentinels to the playoffs, Keanu Reeves would reclaim his birth name and jump to Hollywood to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a movie star.

Now Keanu Reeves is the most famous person on Earth. In some parts of the world, cults adore him as The One, a man who they believe will deliver humanity from hyper-advanced AIs who will try to enslave us all.

I don't know if that's true, but I know this: Keanu Reeves was one hell of an Ohio State quarterback, and he deserves more props for his service to the Buckeyes.

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