NFL Draft Q&A: TE Dustin Keller

Purdue's Dustin Keller is grateful for the trail that the Colts' Dallas Clark has blazed as a versatile tight end because teams he's visited believe he's out of the same mold. Learn more about Keller and find out which QB told him he'd like to have a chance to throw to him while he was visiting five NFL teams.

Thompson: Tell me a little about what's been going on in your life these last few weeks as you've been counting down to the draft.

Keller: It's been kind of crazy.  I finished up the Combine, had my Pro Day, which was pretty tiring.  But it was enjoyable to be done with that process.  Fortunately I didn't have any individual workouts, so I moved right on to team visits.  I visited Philadelphia, New Orleans, Buffalo, Miami, and the New York Jets.  That was a lot of fun.  Ever since then I've continued to work out and have started playing the hurry up and wait game.

Thompson: Was the Combine experience what you expected it to be?  What were you pleased the most with about your experience?

Keller: The Combine was a lot of fun.  I don't want to say I was nervous, but I didn't really know what to expect.  But when I got there, visiting with the teams, talking with the coaches, and having to opportunity to talk a lot of football — it was really cool.  And of course the things that got real old real fast were the medical testing and the psychological evaluations.  But as soon as we were done with that we got to do the actual physical testing.  And that was a lot of fun to be able to go in there with the top athletes in my position and compare myself to them.  It was fun to run routes and give the coaches a look at the type of athlete I am.  I think I fared pretty well, and if anything, the physical testing was the best thing I did.  There were a few things I think I could have ran a little faster.

Thompson: How did your Pro Day go?  I know you let a lot of your numbers from the Combine stand since they were so strong.  Talk a little about what you think you accomplished that day.

Keller: I was going to rerun my 40 at the Pro Day, because I wasn't very happy with the time I had, but all the coaches said there's no reason to.  They said they knew I was fast, so I decided not to do it.  But I did redo my vertical and my 5-10-5.  The position drills went really well and Coach Hayes from the Bengals really worked me out.  It was really exhausting but I think I showed pretty well.

Dustin Keller slips out of the tackle of Wisconsin's Jonathan Casillas.
AP Photo/Tom Strattman

Thompson: Were you the only tight end working out?

Keller: Yes. Coach Hayes had us do one-on-one for about twenty-five minutes running routes.  I'd run a 45-yard route and then have to jog right back and run another one.  It was pretty exhausting, but I'm glad to have done it with him and to show him.

Thompson: Tell us a little bit about your Philadelphia visit.

Keller: I met everybody on the staff.  Anyone from the scouts all the way up to the GM.  So I got a chance to sit down with pretty much everybody.  They told me what they thought about me, how they would use me in their offense, and how I would fit in.  None of them give you any idea whether or not they would pick you.  Every single team told me they would use me in a Dallas Clark-type of role.  And that's really exciting because he's one of the top, if not the top, tight end in the NFL right now.  It's exciting to be compared to him.

Thompson: Let's talk about your talent in that area.  Do you see yourself in that versatile role?  Maybe a guy who can slide out into a slot and give them that flexibility?

Keller: Definitely.  When teams talked to me that's the major thing they said they were looking for in me.  The ability to stretch the field, to beat linebackers and safeties, and to find the soft spots on defense.  That's what they're looking for.

Thompson: You came into Purdue as a wide receiver and put on about 40 pounds. Why'd you make the transition?  With your pass catching skills they certainly had to have considered you as a wide receiver.

Keller: During my redshirt year was my first time ever really lifting weights.  In high school we did a little bit, but it wasn't required of me, so I was never too serious about it.  But during that year, lifting and eating right, I put on weight.  By the time I got past that first summer I was 210 pounds and by the time spring ball came around I was 230 pounds.  As an experiment, they moved me from wide receiver into slot and that spring I ended up playing a little bit of tight end.  By the time fall rolled around I was full-time playing tight end.

Thompson: Let's talk about your visit to the Saints.  That would give you an opportunity to continue wearing gold and black.

Keller: [laughs] That's what I told them.  It was a good experience meeting with them.  When I got there they took us to a sports bar and we met a few of the players.  I got to sit down and talk with Drew Brees and he told me how much he'd like to throw to me.  He gave me some insight about how the city is and that if I got picked up there he'd help me with all the transitions.  I also got to talk to a couple of the other players and I really enjoyed it.  The coaching staff was great and let me know how I would fit in.  They also said that Dallas Clark-role, and I think with the success of the Indianapolis Colts a lot of teams are trying to do that in the tight end spot.  A lot of teams are trying to go to that and it really benefits me.

Thompson: How about your trip to Buffalo?  Did anything different pop out at you from your trip to the Bills?

Keller: It was similar to the other ones.  I definitely spent more time with their tight end coach though.  He was a guy I thought I'd really get along with well and would love to play for.

Thompson: Miami is headed up now by Bill Parcells, who's a great evaluator of talent.  It had to have been very flattering to have the Dolphins bring you in, knowing that Parcells is a guy who knows how to spot guys who are going to be in this league for a long time.

Keller: Definitely.  I got meet Coach Parcells and he's a really good guy.  As a head coach I hear he's a real tough guy, but he was real cool and we got to sit down and talk a bit.  The coaches there were also great. They were comparing me to Dallas Clark and Chris Cooley.

Dustin Keller pushes Notre Dame's Tom Zbikowski away after making a catch.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Thompson: Was the Jets visit any different from the others?

Keller: No, similar thing across the board with all the teams.

Thompson: Were you the only player visiting that day or were you there in a group for most of these?

Keller: Philadelphia there was a group.  When I first got to New Orleans there was a group at first, but they left the next morning and I got some one-on-one with the coaches.  In Buffalo I was by myself and with Miami there were about four guys at the same time — same with the New York Jets.

Thompson: Were there other tight ends at those visits as well?

Keller: At Philadelphia I don't think there were any other tight ends except for Jermichael Finley.  In New Orleans I was there with Fred Davis, who I got to know well at the Combine.  At Buffalo I was the only player there.  At Miami and with the Jets I was the only tight end.

Thompson: Do you feel you offer any advantage with your skill set to being in motion versus just starting off the line?

Keller: Yes. When you go in motion it gives you a better idea of what defense they're playing, whatever it may be.  It also gives the other team a lot of matchup problems.

Thompson: What was the one thing you wanted these teams to know about you as a person when you met with these teams?

Keller: That I'm a good guy, real outgoing, and smart.  I know that's a really big thing for a lot of these teams because they want me to play right away.  They want to know that I can get in there and run the playbook and be able to apply everything and know everything on the field.  

Thompson: What are you going to be doing draft weekend?

Keller: Purdue is actually giving me a suite in a press box at the stadium, so I'm going to have my family and a few of my close friends there.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at You can contact him by email through this link.

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