By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- Patrick Keim was sitting in a team meeting Wednesday thinking back on everything he has been through during his four years at Auburn. There have been good times and bad. The night before, it hit him that he had just played his last true road game. And this Saturday, the senior guard will suit up for the final time at Auburn Arena.
"It's weird," Keim said. "It's just crazy to think about. I don't want to be another cliché senior saying `time flies,' but it's one of those things.
"I'm trying to just hang on. I'm trying to have some fun. I'm trying to yes, understand that it's my last game at home, but just enjoy every second of it. And not in a regretful way, like I've messed up to this point -- obviously I've made some mistakes -- but at the same time, I've worked really hard and been intentional about loving this season."
Keim walked on to Auburn prior to the 2014-2015 season. In his four seasons with the Tigers, he's played a total of 186 minutes and made five shots. But his effort and his selfless attitude eventually earned him a scholarship, and though he's played sparingly this season, he's played no small part in the turnaround. He's helped see this team go from good to great.
"They say there's a fine line between the good teams and the great teams," Keim said. "We've been a good team, but there's always something missing. I always wanted to experience what it would feel like to be a part of a great team. We're experiencing it right now, and it's unbelievable. Especially how sweet it is for this to be my senior year.
"It's kind of that feeling that solidifies your hard work, solidifies you pursuing through your doubts. Any time you have doubts about something and you persist through it and you experience a reward on the other end, there's very few things in life that are better than that."
The life of a walk-on is typically full of hard work and very little recognition, but there have been plenty of significant moments during Keim's career on The Plains -- so many, in fact, that it's difficult to choose his favorite.
There was the semifinal game against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament his freshman year where he came in and made a 3-point shot late. Then, as a sophomore, Keim played significant minutes in an 83-77 win over Tennessee, and it was at that moment that he realized, "OK, I'm not terrible." He felt like he belonged even though he was a walk-on at the time.
Later that same season, Keim played a small part in Auburn's victory over No. 14 Kentucky. It was only the second time the Tigers had beaten Kentucky in the previous 33 meetings, and the fans stormed the court when it was over.
"That was a bucket list for me," Keim said. "I always wanted to be a part of storming the court. Obviously, I got to experience that in the Iron Bowl with football, but I always wanted to be in it, and it was literally the most surreal moment. I loved it. That was honestly one of the coolest moments of my college career."
Last season's 3-point shot at the end of the Alabama game was extra sweet for Keim, who has never been much of a fan of the Crimson Tide. He still remembers growing up in a community full of Alabama fans and having to always fight against the crowd.
-- Greg Ostendorf (@greg_ostendorf) March 2, 2018
As his journey winds down, though, the best moment might be yet to come.
"We ain't done, so there's really no telling," Keim said. "Making the NCAA Tournament and winning an SEC championship, it's always been one of those things that if this happened, that would be wild. One of those `if this happens' dreams. We're sitting there. We're living in a season honestly that I never thought I'd experience. Always wished. Always dreamed."
Auburn (24-6, 12-5) is already a lock for the Big Dance, and with a win Saturday, the Tigers can clinch a share of the SEC regular-season for the first time since 1999.
Those moments -- Senior Day, winning an SEC title, hearing your name called on Selection Sunday -- they will be moments that stick with Keim forever. They will be moments that define this Auburn team for years to come. But at the end of the day, that's not what the former walk-on wants to be remembered for when he leaves Auburn.
He doesn't want to be remembered for his 3-point shot against Alabama or the time he nearly swiped Collin Sexton. He wants to be remembered for his work serving other people.
"If I could ever leave a legacy, the legacy that I hope I'd leave would be one that people just knew me not for myself, but for how much I cared about them," Keim said. "That's it. I don't want jokes, funny, witty. I want to be able to be remembered for essentially just loving people.
"That's really it. I don't want to have a legacy of being good at a sport. But just loving people."
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: