BY JAMES COOK
— Darren Keyton says he’s not nervous.
“Not yet,” the Traverse City West product said. “Just keeping things normal and doing the same old stuff. We’re enjoying the weather and grilling.”
Today could be the day he gets some of the biggest news of his relatively young life. The Central Michigan University offensive guard is hoping to hear his name called on the third day of the NFL Draft.
But before that, he was able to see one of his teammates announced as the first overall selection Thursday when left tackle Eric Fisher was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It was really cool,” Keyton said. “It was crazy. Just unreal to think that the last four years, we’ve been playing together and roommates for a year. Basically hanging out and being brothers for the last four years.”
Keyton was named CMU’s Offensive Upfront Co-Player of the Year along with Fisher last season.
Fisher was the top pick in a draft class that is being dominated by linemen on both sides of the ball.
“We knew he was going to be one or two. I always kind of felt he’d go No. 1. He had a lot of workouts penciled in. And he saw the Chiefs maybe a day after our pro day. It wasn’t a shock to see it. ESPN was beyond shocked about it.”
Keyton received his Little Caesars Bowl championship ring Friday, the second bowl ring of his collegiate career.
Keyton said he’s been contacted in the last week by Houston, Tennessee and Philadelphia. Cincinnati has also previously shown interest, among other teams.
“It’s all just making sure they have my info right for draft day,” Keyton said of the calls from the Texans, Titans and Eagles. “I’m on their board, so that’s all that matters.”
It’s also a good sign that if his name isn’t announced today, he’ll get a phone call not long after the final pick. Keyton said he doesn’t know when — or if — he’ll go Saturday.
“The draft is just too crazy,” said Keyton, who at 6-3, 300 pounds has prototypical NFL size for a guard or center and the versatility to play both. “My dad, when he got drafted, he never talked to the Patriots, and the Patriots ended up drafting him.”
His father, James, was an eighth-round pick out of Arizona State in 1984 by New England, and played later played offensive tackle for the Denver Broncos and the Arizona Wranglers of the United States Football League.
DraftInsider.net says “Nasty, small-area blocker with good size and growth potential. Quick off the snap, attacks assignments, and is always looking for someone to hit” and “Keyton is an underrated blocking prospect with the ability to line up at any of the three interior offensive line positions.”
Keyton said Fisher’s selection at No. 1 overall is another huge boost for Central Michigan’s football program. The Chippewas alone had as many first-round draft picks as the entire Big Ten. The count: One (Fisher, No. 1) to one (Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, at No. 31 overall).
“It’s a lot of great publicity for CMU,” Keyton said. “It shows that MAC schools are just as good as the big-time schools.”