When he was stunned by the sudden death of his father, Rob Keller turned to his old volleyball coaches for comfort.
To that point, Keller, the former Central High volleyball and basketball star, seemed to have jammed a few lives into one. He played big-time college volleyball in California. He sold art at a gallery on Rodeo Drive. He worked on an Oregon vegetable farm. He modeled in Italy. He ran a bar on Capitol Hill. He sold real estate to the rich and powerful.
He parked Johnny Carson's car, lifted weights with Eddie Van Halen and dined with Robert Redford.
But when his father died in an automobile accident in 2007, when his life was turned inside out, he called his high school coaches, Barb and Bruce Koller.
"When I couldn't get my breath, I called them up, which reeled me back in," Keller said. "It was a gift, really. . . . They've always been there for me in a special way."
Always, he has found time to phone and visit the Kollers since leaving Central in 1986.
Even after he met and married Betsy Myers, the sister of Dee Dee Myers, one-time press secretary to former President Bill Clinton.
When the couple moved to Boston, Keller even ended up coaching the Harvard University men's volleyball team.
His wife then became the chief operating officer for the campaign of President-elect Barack Obama. Keller is back in real estate again, this time from the marketing end.
Through it all, he stays in touch with people back home like the Kollers. They were the ones who drove him hard and loved him harder in high school. He was 6-foot-5, seemed to have springs in his legs and dominated volleyball games with his blocking and attacking.
But when he coasted a bit, they tightened their grip, pushed him to do his best. Like that day he had to dive, roll and lunge on the floor over and over again until he finally did a defensive drill the way they thought he should.
"He told his father that, 'Barb (Koller) is trying to kill me,'" Bruce Koller said with a laugh, remembering back. "But the irony was that when he went to Pepperdine we got a phone call, and he said, 'Barb, I know now what you were trying to do.'"
That all helped Keller become one of the most heavily recruited high school volleyball players in the nation. He became a freshman starter at powerful Pepperdine.
And then life really took off. Rubbing elbows with movie stars, modeling, politics and high-end real estate.
"He came from a great family. We thought, 'This kid is special. He's going to end up doing something," Bruce Koller said. "This kid could end up being president of the United States. ... He has a tremendous charisma about him."
Life is so different now. Keller is happy being the parent who supports the high-powered wife and drives 6-year-old daughter, Madison, to school and picks her up at the end of each day.
It's just that his days always find a way to spin so fast and hectic, full of turbulence and triumphs.
He started 2007 by contracting a foot infection that nearly cost him his leg. His father died that May.
Then he was busy moving from Chicago back to Boston, finding that new real estate job and focusing on the presidential race and now his wife's future -- and his own.
He would love, some day, to run his own bistro or work a small farm.
Maybe even move back to D.C., to be closer to York County.
There's so much yet to do.
And, yet, so many great life experiences to remember. Did he tell you about playing beach volleyball and drinking beers with NBA coach Pat Riley?
"Nothing surprises me," Bruce Koller said. "He calls and stops by at least once a year, and the stories just go on and on."
Reach Frank Bodani at 771-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org