I met Kiehl Frazier for the first time in 2010 when I spent two days in Springdale, Ark., as he prepared for his senior season at Shiloh Christian School. He'd already committed to Auburn.
I found him to be an exceeding polite, engaging and friendly young man. He was soft-spoken, but he was clearly very focused. Two years later, that hasn't changed. After he was named Auburn's starting quarterback on Thursday, I looked at my notes from that trip.
On a hot summer day, Shiloh coach Josh Floyd expressed no doubt that Kiehl was headed for big things.
"Yes, definitely," Floyd said. "He’s the most talented kid I’ve coached. I think he’s the best high school quarterback I’ve seen. He has all the tools, but he still has a lot of room to grow. He has a lot of potential. I think he will really shine at the next level."
As Shiloh geared up for a run at what would be a third consecutive 4A state championship, Floyd was happy that the recruiting process had ended. Once Kiehl committed, he said, it was over.
"It got pretty crazy in the spring," Floyd said. "For Kiehl and myself, it was a fulltime job. You had people from coast to coast wanting to come in here and watch him. It was one of those things that was probably fun at first, but it was starting to wear on him. He’s not really into all the drama.
"The thing I like most about Kiehl is he is a competitor. He wants to win a third straight state championship. He genuinely wants to do that first and foremost. When he’s done here, he’ll start thinking about Auburn and get after it for them."
I asked Kiehl why a lifelong Arkansas fan would go so far away from home to play college football. He talked about then-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and about the environment at Auburn.
"The first time I started watching them was when Kodi Burns went there," Kiehl said. "Auburn kind of got more publicity from that. When Coach Malzahn went there, they kind of popped on the radar."
Once he visited, Auburn shot to the top of his list.
"The coaching staff and Coach Chizik and the athletic director, Mr. Jacobs, are really Godly people," Kiehl said. "That really made a big impression on me and definitely my dad."
It was also on that trip that I met Robin Beach, Kiehl's father, for the first time. Beach married Kiehl's mother when Kiehl was three months old. I got my first glimpse of a special family when he told me a story of the day after Kiehl led Shiloh Christian to its second consecutive state championship.
"We had won the game for the second year in a row and Kiehl was the MVP for the second year in a row," Beach said. "That morning, he was lying in his bedroom. It was about 9 o’clock. His mama comes in and says ‘Kiehl, there’s some dishes that were left over here and it’s your turn to do them.’ His mom comes back in and he hasn’t gotten out of bed yet. She said, ‘Hey, MVP, go do the dishes. He just smiled and laughed like he usually does."
And he did the dishes.
It was about a year after that visit that Kiehl arrived at Auburn. And next Saturday, at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, he will be the starting quarterback, carrying the hopes of legions of Auburn fans.
But to his father, his mother Layron and his two brothers, he'll still be just Kiehl. And that won't change based on how he plays in a football game.
"A lot of parents lose sight of the big picture," Beach said. "You forget what your family was founded on, and that’s a value system. It’s also a system of authority. For those things to stay important, the parents have to stay grounded just like the kid. They have to keep their values intact."