TRAVERSE CITY — Darren Keyton is waiting for a call.
Only a few days removed from being among the Detroit Lions’ final cuts, the former Traverse City West offensive lineman is keeping his phone handy, hoping the Lions or another NFL team need some help along the line.
“I’m just going to keep working out and working,” said Keyton, a 300-pound guard/center who starred at Central Michigan University. “Staying strong, kind of waiting to see what happens the next couple weeks with injuries and things like that.”
Keyton said the Lions told him they liked him, but just didn’t have enough roster spots to keep the undrafted rookie.
“(They said) I did a great job and they really liked me,” Keyton said. “But it just didn’t work with the numbers and what they may need right now. (They said) to stay in shape and be ready for a call.”
The ability to play both right guard and left guard in addition to center was something Keyton had going for him. He also saw time on special teams in the Lions’ four preseason game, playing on
“Playing all three positions, they definitely liked that a lot,” Keyton said. “And they said I improved really well week to week and day by day. They just kept saying, ‘Be ready. You’re going to get your chance. Be ready for a phone call. It may not be from us. It may be someone else.’”
Keyton said the experience has been one he’ll never forget.
“Just being around the guys, the locker room,” Keyton said. “There’s nothing you can really compare it to. The camaraderie you have when you play sports, especially on the offensive line. It’s the closest group on the team, since we all have to work together or nothing works at all.”
He saw action in all four preseason games for the Lions.
“I got to line up against Suh and Fairley quite a bit the last few weeks of preseason,” Keyton said. “It was just crazy going up against them and knowing how good they are and being able to block them. Yes, I got beat, too. But who doesn’t? Those guys are such great athletes and great football players.”
Keyton ultimately ended up losing out to Leroy Harris for the final interior lineman position. That wasn’t all that surprising, as head coach Jim Schwartz likes having veterans as backups and Harris is a seven-year vet and has 75 games and 42 starts of experience to fall back on.
But Keyton was thought by many media covering the Lions to be a solid candidate for the team’s eight-player practice squad, which was announced Sunday.
“I thought I had a good chance at it,” Keyton said. “They just went another direction for the practice squad. Anything can happen. The practice squad is only a week-to-week thing, and you never know in the NFL who is going to go down and what team is going to need what. So you just need to stay in shape throughout the whole season and be ready for a phone call at all times.”
So in the meantime, he’s staying in shape and hoping to do some coaching in Lansing or Traverse City, since finding steady work is a little difficult when a prospective employer finds out he could leave at the drop of a hat if an NFL team calls.
“Most people aren’t really fond of that when looking for someone to hire,” Keyton joked.
While he hopes to be back in the NFL soon, he said he’d prefer it was back the Lions, a team he grew up watching.
“They made a lot of great moves this off-season with Reggie Bush,” Keyton said. “They’re going to be a really tough team to beat. Hopefully I get called back to go there, because they’re going to be a fun team to watch.
“All the cuts he makes are just so unreal,” Keyton said of Bush. “He’s so fast and his agility is so good. He’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime players you get to watch.”