In the 1960s, Orangeburg, South Carolina was a major center of the Civil Rights Movement activities involving students from both Claflin College and South Carolina State University. On February 8, 1968, after days of protests against a segregated bowling alley, violence broke out near the bowling alley between police and black students from South Carolina State. Police opened fire on a crowd of students, killing Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, and Delano Middleton, and wounding 27 others in what became known as the “Orangeburg Massacre”. Well Orangeburg, South Carolina is the city where my next Diamond in the Rough and his family reign from.
The city of Orangeburg, South Carolina has not always been known for just the Massacre, it is also known as the “Garden City”. Orangeburg is famous for its blooming flowers, and incredible sceneries. On February 5th, 1990, Samuel Pough Jr., and his wife Valarie were blessed with a flower of their own. Little Keith was born in an Orangeburg hospital, and was the second of three children. The Pough family had one goal in mind when raising their children, that was ensuring they were raised in the House of the Lord.
“I was blessed, I had an opportunity that many children never experience. I was raised in a two parent household, where my mother was a missionary and my father was a preacher. Everything wasn’t perfect, but they always found a way to provide.” – Pough
Keith was taught morals and values at a very early age, as both his mother and father embedded the values taught by GOD. Both parents wanted to make sure their son and daughters were raised in the light of the Lord, and would do anything to make sure their children had a great upbringing. Keith didn’t have a terrible upbringing like other Diamond in the Rough members. He actually had a wonderful upbringing. Keith and his two sisters were taught right from wrong at an early age by the young married couple. Both Keith’s mother, and father graduated from college. Keith’s mother Valarie attended South Carolina State, and his father Samuel attended Claflin University, both schools involved in the “Massacre”.
Since Keith was the only boy in the family, he would find out his father had a passion for something else besides God. Keith’s father Samuel Jr., had a gift that many hoped and prayed to have as a child. That was ability to understand the game of football. Keith’s father has been a football coach since he can remember.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to play football for my father. I watched my father coach my entire life. I was his ball boy when he coached high school as a youngster. I saw the passion he had for the game, and it rubbed off on me.” – Pough
Keith would eventually get a chance to play for his father. In 2004, Keith’s father was given a job as the head coach of the CE Murray High School football team. In Keith’s freshman year of high school, he would attend CE Murray High School in Greeleyville, South Carolina. While playing for his father at CE Murray, Keith was a wide receiver because of his size. At 5’8, Keith was a shifty, sure handed wide out for CE Murray for two seasons under his father. At the beginning of his junior year though, Keith would transfer. He transferred to Scott’s Branch High School which is located in Summerton, SC, roughly 45 minutes away from Orangeburg. While attending Scott’s Branch High, his coaches noticed that he needed to be on the defensive side of the ball.
“I had a dream to play in the NFL at an early age, but I didn’t know which position I would play. In high school I was 5’8 up until my sophomore year, that is why I played wide out. When I transferred to Scott’s Branch I grew to 6’3 so the coaches believed I would be a good outside linebacker.” – Pough
The high school coaches made a very wise decision, because in Keith’s senior year he helped the Eagles finish with a 10-2 record. Pough was averaging 12.8 tackles a game, and had at least two handfuls of schools knocking on the door, offering scholarships.
“There were several offers, LSU and Vanderbilt gave me a preferred walk on deal to come play for them, while other schools like Howard, Gardner Webb, and most of the MEAC were recruiting me to play linebacker. Both Norfolk State and North Carolina A&T wanted me to play tight end.”- Pough
One school who was interested in Keith, but was undecided to go with him or another linebacker named Scott Cooper was South Carolina State University, in Pough’s hometown of Orangeburg. Remember this is the same school that Pough’s mother Valarie attended, as well as several other family members. SCSU is a historically black college which has produced several NFL studs such as Deacon Jones and Harry Carson. Pough had a tough decision, and while others would have probably jumped on the opportunity to walk on to an LSU team, Pough took a different route.
“When I made my decision, it wasn’t about football it was about academics, and receiving a degree. I grew up dreaming about playing in the NFL and I knew I had a better chance to get an NFL offer at LSU as a walk on, but to me it was about a good education.” – Pough
Keith Pough was leaving the state of South Carolina because he chose Howard University the historical black college located in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.
“Everyone would say they wanted to play for a big school, but I always wanted to play for a HBCU school. My Uncle, Mom, cousin all went to South Carolina State, an HBCU school. I remember them talking about the champagne dances, and the bands, so it was always something I wanted to do.” - Pough
In Keith’s first year at Howard he played outside linebacker for the Bisons, and racked up 57 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss. Pough only played in 10 games after he tore his ACL his freshman year. After a strong rehab process Pough returned stronger than ever his sophomore year. Keith racked up 100 tackles his sophomore year with 10.5 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss. In Pough’s junior year he led all MEAC players with 120 tackles, and added an additional 3 sacks
Pough was crushing the record books as he had another year with 20 plus tackles for loss. He finished the year with 21 tackles for loss, putting him on the board to break the FCS and Howard record. Pough would miss his first game his senior year but in the past 4 games he has a whopping 43 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. Pough broke the record last week and is now the FCS and Howard Bison leader for tackles for loss in a career. Right now the Howard Bisons are 4-1 and are at ranked #5 in the FCS polls. Keith has achieved many NCAA awards and achievements, but in an early conversation with me last year, Pough told me he wanted to help the team return to their glory days.
“I only have one goal, I want to win the MEAC Championship, and finish the record above .800. I have not had a winning season since I have been here, I don’t care about the personal accolades, I want the team to be a winner. The awards and accolades mean nothing if your team doesn’t win.” – Pough
In last week’s game versus Florida A&M, Keith was named MEAC and The Sports Network’s Defensive Player of the Week. Pough registered 17 total tackles, 12 solo, with 3.5 for a loss of 28 yards, including 2.5 sacks to keep the Bison undefeated in MEAC play. He also forced and recovered a fumble, broke up a pass and broke the Football Championship Subdivision career record in tackles for a loss (66), which is probably one of the best games in his college career. Keith currently has 69.5 tackles for loss.
While Keith might not remember the “Orangeburg Massacre” because of his age, but he is implementing a massacre of his own. I like to call it the “MEAC Massacre”, because since his freshman year he has killed the division. If Keith Pough keeps it up, he will definitely hear his name called on draft day next year, because he is easily the best player to come out the division since Kendrick Ellis of the New York Jets.
Make sure to follow us on twitter @NFLDraftZone and @drocksthaparty. We would like to thank Keith Pough of Howard and wish him the best of luck.
We also would like to send our regards to the family and friends of all the families affected by the “Orangeburg Massacre”. It was a horrible time, and it hurts us at NFL Draft Zone to see anyone treated differently.