April 15, 2008

Keller takes visits, awaits NFL Draft

About a week ago, Dustin Keller sat down to talk with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

The meeting of the two former Boilermakers came during the Keller's visit to the Big Easy, his second stop on a five-city NFL tour in the days leading up to the NFL Draft April 26-27.

"He's been to Purdue a few times," Keller said of Brees, "so I had met him and talked to him. But I never really got to sit down and talk to him about football stuff. He kind of told me that he'd really love to have me in that offense, coming to play with him.

"He let me know about the area, how everything was going. He was real cool."

During the last 10 days, Keller, a tight end who ranks among the best at his position, has visited Philadelphia, New Orleans and Buffalo; he's scheduled to be in Miami today and at the New York Jets headquarters on Wednesday.

"Usually, you have dinner with all the coaches," said Keller, explaining the routine, "then I would sit down with the position coaches I'd be working with, meet with the offensive coordinator, the head coach and the GM a lot of times.

"They have someone take me around to tour the whole facility. It was really cool. New Orleans, more than anywhere else, you actually got to go there and hang out with the players."

Although not a guarantee of selection, NFL visits are certainly a solid gauge of interest level. The Eagles hold the 19th and 49th overall picks; the Saints (10 and 40); the Bills (11 and 41); the Dolphins (1 and 32); and the New York Jets (6 and 36).

After a couple of the trips, Keller said he came away feeling as though the teams had him near the top of their draft board.

"But I know they really don't want me to discuss that too much outside of their offices," he said.

Most draft experts predict Keller as a late first- or early second-round choice. At ESPN.com, Scouts, Inc. ranks him No. 1 at tight end, ahead of USC's Fred Davis and Notre Dame's John Carlson. Rivals.com has him third, behind the aforementioned duo. But Keller says he's been trying to stay away from such speculation.

"I try not to look into that stuff too much," said Keller, who will watch the draft with friends and family from a suite in the Ross-Ade Pavilion, "but of course having four brothers who stay on the Internet 24/7, they tell me the same thing. I try to stay away from all that, but they definitely keep me updated even when I don't want to be."

Keller's draft stock skyrocketed at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February. There, he showed off the extreme athleticism that was on display on Saturdays during his four years at Purdue. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash, jumped 41-inches on his vertical leap and had a 3.94-second short shuttle, all tops among his position. And scouts from every NFL team were in attendance at Purdue's Pro Day in March, watching Keller go through an assortment of tight end drills.

Keller says he wouldn't change anything he's done since his final game at Purdue in December.

"I was training down in Tampa, which went really well," Keller said. "I was there for two months, working on nothing but football. It was really cool. Ever since then I've been training here in Indianapolis, trying to stay in shape until camp comes around."

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