Son of Penn State, NFL star Lavar Arrington brings unique past to Hens

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He has a famous name that he only recently reclaimed.

He plays a sport in which his father excelled collegiately and professionally that only recently also became his preferred game.

Keeno Arrington comes to the University of Delaware In February, ready to tackle those contradictions along with any ball-carriers he may encounter on the football field.

The 22-year-old from Pittsburgh is expected to be among Delaware's Feb. 1 Signing Day additions and will begin spring semester classes Feb. 6. Spring practice starts a few weeks later and Arrington will be among those trying to earn a role in the Blue Hens' rebuilding defense, despite not having played high school football.

So who is Keeno Arrington?

Keeno Arrington when he played for Lackawanna Junior College.
Keeno Arrington when he played for Lackawanna Junior College.

About that name

Keeno is the son of Lavar Arrington, a recent College Football Hall of Fame inductee who was a two-time first-team All-American linebacker at Penn State. He was then the second pick of the 2000 NFL Draft by Washington and played seven pro seasons.

Keeno was born in 2000. But Lavar and his mother, Katey, who'd known each other since attending high school in Pittsburgh, didn't stay together long. Keeno grew up with his mother in Pittsburgh, though he did frequently see his father, who married his wife Trish, had four children and moved to the Los Angeles area. Keeno eventually took the last name of his stepfather, Keenan Holmes.

Lavar and Keeno had no contact for more than eight years from roughly 2013 to 2021, Keeno said, because of "family disputes that were over my head."

Penn State legendary linebacker LaVar Arrington is honored on the field ahead of his December induction to the College Football Hall of Fame at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in State College.
Penn State legendary linebacker LaVar Arrington is honored on the field ahead of his December induction to the College Football Hall of Fame at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in State College.

A high school star — in basketball

Keeno Holmes frequently made his own headlines, but it was as a basketball player. He was on Lincoln Park teams that reached four Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League title games and won two WPIAL titles, plus a PIAA Class 3A championship.

"Once I started playing basketball there," he said, "started doing the AAU travel thing in the summer, that kinda of eliminated summer workouts and camp for football. So slowly I started doing basketball all year round to the point it was kind of like the only thing I do."

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Keeno scored 1,658 career points and earned a WPIAL 3A Player of the Year award. He then attended nearby Division III Allegheny College, starting and averaging 9.6 points per game as a freshman in 2019-20.

"I really wouldn't change anything," he said of those experiences.

A new perspective

With no basketball season in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and schoolwork being done remotely, he reassessed his family situation and athletic priorities while quarantined at home.

With plenty of time to mull his own athletic pursuits, Keeno felt the urge to give football a shot and began training with that in mind. He hadn't been on a football team since sixth grade. It was only natural then, he felt, to re-establish contact with his father.

"I just felt spiritually pushed to reach out to my dad and rekindle that relationship," he said.

LaVar was happy to reconnect with his son and aid in his football endeavors.

"We all just feel whole again," Keeno said. " . . . A lot of tension and heartache is out the window."

A return to football

Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, gave Arrington the chance to play football, which, he confessed "scared me to death."

Coaches urged him to "be a sponge," and listen, observe and ask questions. Arrington was limited to special teams duty in his first season, in 2021. The biggest challenge, he said, was the physical aspect.

He turned out to be a quick learner.

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Last fall Arrington became a starter, seeing action at linebacker, safety and cornerback. Arrington made 34 tackles, including four for lost yardage, broke up 13 passes and intercepted two.

"By the time I got to my second season I was really comfortable in what I was doing," Arrington said.

It was truly "a breakout season," he added.

Delaware notices

Delaware defensive coordinator Manny Rojas was among the first of several Division I FCS coaches to express recruiting interest in Arrington. It didn't hurt that Rojas also has Pittsburgh roots. That helped pave Arrington's way to Delaware, which he chose after also getting scholarship offers from several of the Blue Hens' CAA rivals.

"When I talked to coach Rojas on the phone, I kinda knew that was the place I wanted to go," Arrington said. "Him being a Pittsburgh guy, that connection, we speak a similar language. He's a blue-collar guy."

The message Arrington got from Delaware was "We love you as a player," he said, and it sounded sincere.

A visit to Delaware confirmed those feelings. UD coaches view Arrington, he said, as "a Swiss Army knife" in their three- or four-safety alignment capable of run-stopping, pass-covering and blitzing duties.

"When a program like that wants you," he said, "they know something."

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This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Penn State, NFL star Lavar Arrington's son Keeno joins Delaware