ALLEN PARK — Darren Keyton’s dream of signing with an NFL team came true.
Not only that, but he’s also playing for the team he grew up watching and rooting for.
“I grew up my whole life watching the Lions,” said the former Traverse City West and Central Michigan University lineman. “It’s unreal to be now playing for them. If it was Sunday at our house, the TV was on and the whole family was watching.”
After participating in last weekend’s rookie mini-camp, Keyton was the only one of 21 tryout players to be invited back. He received a three-year contract with the Lions.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Keyton said. “It’s just setting in that it’s really happening and that I’m playing for the Detroit Lions right now.”
On Monday morning, he received word from the team that he was being retained.
“I was just trying to work hard and be seen on film when they were looking at tape,” Keyton said.
Next up is trying to survive the Lions’ roster cuts from 90 to 53 in several stages.
“I’m not really looking at that,” Keyton said. “I’m just looking forward to getting better every day and competing and learning the playbook and the calls of the offense.
“The biggest adjustment was the playbook. Obviously the speed is much faster. The playbook is a lot bigger and there’s more calls. Just a lot more information than in college.”
One familiar face at the mini-camp was former CMU teammate Cody Wilson, a wide receiver who was also signed by Detroit.
“It was great having Cody there,” Keyton said. “We’ve been hanging out at the hotel a bit. And being at camp, we both had someone we knew and had a relationship with, which was nice.”
Keyton continues a strong tradition of Traverse City West linemen moving on to the next level.
“We’re super happy for him,” Titans coach Tim Wooer said. “It’s good any time a Traverse City or a northern Michigan kid has these opportunities.
“We’ve had a nice run of kids, starting with Eric Gordon, now Darren, and Jake Fisher, Connor Hayes, Rocco Khoury. The kids know Darren. He’s talked to them. This allows kids in the program to realize if you do the things Darren did and work hard the sky is the limit. Eric Gordon got his shot, Darren’s getting a shot. Jake Fisher will get his shot sometime soon. Kids get to see that first hand. It’s neat to see when kids you know get those opportunities. He’s a great football player, a great worker and a great person.”