Rookie TE Dustin Keller looks to make an impact on the Jets offense. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Whistles blowing, grass getting kicked up by cleats, and coaches yelling callisthenic drill names. Rookie mini-camp was in full swing at Weeb Ewbank Hall at Hofstra and everyone was anxious to show what they’ve got; including rookie TE Dustin Keller. He was ready and raring to go on Saturday.
“It’s been a great experience, but also an exciting challenge,” Keller said. “I was very excited to get out there and mix it up with the rookies and look forward to this summer and season.”
Keller joins the Jets as the first first-round TE picked by the team since Anthony Becht in 2000. Becht, as well as Kyle Brady and Johnny Mitchell are on the list of first round TE disappointments that the team has drafted since 1992. All were heralded as being saviors to the Jets offense but none of them made it past their rookie contracts. The Jets haven’t had a dominating TE in their offense since the Mickey Shuler days in the 80’s and Shuler was a third round pick. Keller looks to break this streak.
His dedication the first few days of camp hasn’t gone unnoticed. Head coach Eric Mangini had much to say at Day 2 of mini-camp.
“He’s a hard worker and a nice kid,” Mangini said. “We looked at Keller since his standout performance at the combine and post draft workouts. I look forward to coaching him as well as the other rookies.”
Keller’s first “welcome to the NFL” moment was receiving the playbook. His first book was over 200 pages long.
“I would say installing the offense is a test since it’s new,” he said. “We’ve installed two weeks worth of stuff in two days so it’s an interesting change.”
The Lafayette, IN native was on the edge of his seat during last Saturday’s draft even though he had the feeling he wouldn’t get taken in the first round. He was pleasantly surprised around pick 30 of the draft.
“Every analyst had me going in the second round and it didn’t bother since all I want to do is play,” he said while holding a barrel of pretzels. “When I got the call that the Jets were going to trade up to get me, I was on cloud nine, and my family was extra loud when they heard my named called. It was really cool.”
The 6-foot-2 inch “hybrid” TE out of Purdue feels that it’s not fair to compare him to elite tight ends like Jeremy Shockey of the New York Giants or Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers.
“Those guys have proven that they can play in this league and I respect what they’ve accomplished,” Keller said. “I’m just glad to be a Jet. I hope to be successful and put my team in a position to win a lot of games down the road.”
Dustin has many interests other than football. He’s also an avid moviegoer.
“I like mobster movies,” he said. “Some of my favorites are Goodfellas, the Godfather and all those.”
Good luck to him to try to sit in a New York movie theater now that he plays there.
Keller said he didn’t let the fan reaction at Radio City Music Hall get to him when the Jets traded their second and one of their fourth round picks to get him. He said he was too excited to let anything bother him.
“I think I was the kind of a name that wasn’t known very much,” he said. “After the combine I moved up so people learned about me. It was something I was kind of expecting if I went in the first round.”
With the recent acquisition of Keller and the known unhappiness of current Jets TE Chris Baker, talk of a TE controversy is inevitable. Reports say that Baker is unhappy and he said that the Jets “promised” certain things to him and didn’t deliver. The Jets denied any promises and Keller denounced any sort of controversy.
“I’m not thinking about that too much since it doesn’t concern me,” he said. “I look forward to working with and learning from Chris and Bubba [Franks]. I’m going to do what’s asked of me.”
Dustin Keller’s favorite snack: pretzels. “I had three before every game in college and I won’t stop now,” he said. Keller was seen in the locker room toting a barrel of pretzel sticks in hand when rookie free agent CB Paul Pratt tried to knock them out of his and Keller responded playfully, “Don’t mess with my pretzels guy.”
Keller is also a very good ping pong player. “I’ve been playing for a very long time,” he said. “I’m the best in the world,” he said jokingly. And he loves Connect Four. “I know it’s a kids game but we’re all kids at heart,” Keller said.
According to Mangini, David Harris claimed he was in for a workout before the rookies came into camp; the first of veteran Gang Green players. “I think it was a function of him wanting to be here and not be part of rookie weekend the way he was last year and enjoy the afternoon and see these guys,” the coach said. “He appreciates the transition these guys are going through. He seemed a lot happier yesterday than he did a year ago yesterday.”
Danny Woodhead, formerly of Chadron State, is an alumnus to the same school as former Buffalo Bills WR Don Beebe. “It’s cool to have your name mentioned in the breath of another NFL player.”