For the past two seasons, Freddy Keiaho has been flying to the ball as a linebacker with the Indianapolis Colts. Selected in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the 26-year-old defender will be a restricted free agent at the end of this month.
Teams who have seen him play will undoubtedly be watching to see what level of a contract tender that Indianapolis puts in front of Keiaho. Due to his ability to hit gaps with a startling quickness, his strong football instincts, and his solid tackling technique, Keiaho could ring up lots of frequent-flyer miles if the Colts try to get away with offering him the lowest tender. That said, he's made it clear that he'd love to stay in Indianapolis.
I checked in with the fun, yet focused, young linebacker to see what he thought about the likelihood that he'd be back in a Colts uniform this year.
For more excerpts from this interview, you can click here to read my Free Agent Spotlight feature on Keiaho.
Ed Thompson: Three years into this game at the pro level, where do you think you've made the most progress?
Freddy Keiaho: I'd have to say it's how I've learned to deal with the length of the season. College football and the NFL are almost completely different games because of how many games you play in the NFL. To play in the NFL, it takes a lot of mental toughness and it tests your passion for the game, because if you don't love the game, it's a really long season.
Thompson: This must be an exciting time, but also a bit of a weird time for you as well.
Keiaho: After being a Colt for three years, you get a feeling and a sense for how they do things. Personally, I don't think I'm going anywhere. But you never really know. You get a tender, and if it's a low tender, someone will offer you something better. If not, then you just sign a contract and play out your contract.
Thompson: Let's throw out a crazy scenario for a moment and assume that you've received a low tender from the Colts. And then a 3-4 defensive team blows you away with an offer. Do you think your versatility translates well even to the 3-4?
Keiaho: That would be an interesting case, because a 3-4 defense is run a little bit differently. You have to take on more blockers, it's quite a different dynamic than a 4-3. I don't ever really see that happening, but football is football and as long as you know your run assignment and your pass assignment, you'll do all right.
Freddy Keiaho celebrates with fans after the Colts' Super Bowl victory in January, 2007.
AP Photo/David Duprey
Thompson: You certainly proved your value to the team, so I can't imagine that they're going to come in with a low tender. You posted 101 tackles last year according to the Colts records and 114 this year—and that mark was second-highest on the team. You've really gotten into a groove in this defense and figured out your role in it, haven't you?
Keiaho: I'm just excited about the opportunity, and I really do honestly in my heart believe that I'll be with the Colts. I'm almost 100 percent certain, at least 99.5 percent certain that I'll be here next year. I feel like I haven't played my best football yet and that the best is yet to come.
Thompson: I'm sure the fans in Indianapolis are going to be thrilled to hear that. Talk a little bit about the Colts organization and what it's like to play for them, because I know you have a great relationship with them.
Keiaho: It's just a classy organization. You hate to say this in an interview, but it so true, for example, at the Rookie Symposium we sat next to the Raiders a couple of times and there was just such a marked difference in personalities in the way we acted. They were always trying to get out of meetings early, and they wanted to do things differently, because 'we are the Raiders'. And unfortunately, doing things differently for them doesn't work. Doing things in a respectful way with the Colts organization is something special. Coach Dungy summed it up best when he said, 'It's not the fact that we won games and that we've been successful, it's the fact that we've had a great impact in the community and everybody in football really respects the Indianapolis Colts and the character they bring to the team and to the NFL.'
Thompson: What are some of the best things that you've gotten to do in the area of community service in Indianapolis so far?
Keiaho: The best thing that I get to do is to go talk to kids. They have so much energy, and it doesn't matter who you are, they're just excited to see you. You could be an ice cream man or a doughnut man and they'd probably be even more excited about that than seeing me from the Indianapolis Colts (laughs). But I really enjoy talking to the kids in Indiana and hopefully I'll get to talk to more kids during this off-season.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.