Whether he's on the football field or not, Central Michigan offensive tackle Adam Kieft stands out. At 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, the two-time All-Mid-American Conference performer is one of the biggest CMU football players in history.
His size and talent have not gone unnoticed by the NFL scouts either. Some draft analysts, including Mel Kiper of ESPN, feel Kieft could be drafted as high as the third round in this weekend's annual NFL draft.
"Right now I'm a little nervous in anticipation of the draft," Kieft said. "I'm still hearing I could be drafted as high as the third round all the way down to a free agent. It all depends on how the draft plays out."
Kieft said he has worked out for five teams, the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals in particular could present a great opportunity for Kieft and fellow CMU offensive lineman Eric Ghiaciuc, another potential third round pick. The Bengals offensive line coach is Paul Alexander, who was the offensive line coach at CMU from 1987-91.
"It helps that he's a CMU guy," Kieft said. "I guess he (Alexander) has been getting a lot of flak around the office from the other Cincinnati coaches who feel he's playing favorites with all of us CMU guys," Kieft added, jokingly.
Like Kieft, the 6-3, 294-pound Ghiaciuc has been an anchor on the Chippewa offensive line the past three seasons. He said his draft stock has been rising in recent weeks.
"I'm really excited," Ghiaciuc said. "The last four months I've been hearing I could get drafted anywhere from the fourth to the sixth round. In recent weeks though, I've been hearing third round."
Ghiaciuc said he conducted workouts for the same five teams as Kieft. Although he played center for the Chippewas, Ghiaciuc said he could play guard or center at the next level.
Kieft and Ghiaciuc said they have been receiving advice from former CMU offensive linemen Brock Gutierrez and Scott Rehberg, both of whom went on to play in the NFL. Guitierrez started 15 games for the San Francisco 49ers last season and is a nine year NFL veteran, having played seven seasons (1996-2002) with the Bengals.
According to Kieft, Guitierrez has been working out with them at CMU's Indoor Athletic Complex.
"I see Brock almost every day in the weightroom," Kieft said. "He's been a great help to Eric and me. Brock said in the end (in the NFL), it's all about playing football."
Two other CMU players who could be drafted in the late rounds this weekend are tight end Tory Humphrey and safety James King. Humphrey ran a 4.47 40-yard dash in workouts, one of the fastest times recorded among prospective tight ends. King could have a future in the NFL as a special teams player.
The last CMU player to be selected in the NFL draft was Rehberg in 1997. The Patriots chose him in the seventh round (230th overall) that year. Rehberg played for eight seasons (1997-2004), including four with the Bengals from 2000-2003.
The Chippewas last had multiple players drafted by the NFL in 1985 when safety Jim Bowman (2nd round by New England) and running back Curtis Adams (8th round by San Diego) were selected. CMU has seen many of its players go on to great careers in the NFL, including former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Gary Hogeboom and former Buffalo Bills linebacker Ray Bentley.
If CMU has four players drafted this weekend though, it would be a record for the program and, according to CMU head coach Brian Kelly, is a sign the Chippewa program is headed in the right direction.
"We've seen so many NFL scouts come through here (CMU) in recent weeks," Kelly said. "All of them (Kieft, Ghiaciuc, Humphrey and King) are capable of playing in the NFL."
Kelly said he credits much of the CMU program's success to Chippewa strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo, who came to CMU from the University of Iowa before last season.
"Paul Longo is doing a great job getting players ready to compete at the next level," Kelly said. "We're starting to develop great players here."
Kieft said he has fond memories of his playing days at CMU and looks forward to the day he can give something back to the program.
"CMU has been great to me and I will definitely support the program any way I can," Kieft said.
Ghiaciuc said he also will look back on his time at CMU with fondness. He said the fact that CMU might have four players selected in this year's NFL draft speaks volumes about the program.
"It says we have a solid program," Ghiaciuc said. "It says that CMU has good players."
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