Keith is still the man
When Kenton Keith first signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2003, many football fans thought that the former New Mexico State standout was one of the best if not the best running backs to ever suit up for the Green and White.
Fortunately for Roughrider fans everywhere, there’s a chance that Keith may be back in Saskatchewan for a second tour of duty in the very near future.
After suffering a pair of lower body injuries in his lone campaign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Keith, 30, decided to sit the 2010 season out – despite the pleas of a number of both CFL and NFL squads that were trying to lure Keith back onto the field.
Now back at 100 per cent, Keith is ready to get back into professional football.
“Right now I’m doing most of my workouts with the NFL, but I’m actually coming up to Saskatchewan on the 18th for my son’s birthday and I’m trying to schedule a workout for Saskatchewan – something to fall back on if nothing else works,” Keith explained over the telephone.
Although Keith is quick to point out that Saskatchewan is, for all intents and purposes, a backup plan to his aspirations of returning to the NFL, the Lincoln, Neb. product is quick to show respect to the CFL and offer assurance that he would be more than happy to be back with the Green and White for 2011.
“Honestly, it’s just as hard for an American guy to get into the CFL as it is for the NFL,” offered Keith. “[The CFL is] pretty well known, now – these last couple of years it’s been getting bigger and bigger in the States. Kudos to the CFL.
“I honestly think the CFL is a lot funner. The NFL is cool because you get paid more, if that’s the way you want to look at it, but overall, the CFL is a lot more fun … When I played for Saskatchewan, it was some of the best years of my whole career, man. We had a real tight-knit team and we were like family – the coaches, the GM, and the staff, everybody was just like family, man.”
A member of the Roughriders from 2003 through the 2006 season, it didn’t take long for Keith to establish himself both as one of the premier running-backs in the CFL and has one of the league’s most exciting athletes.
Incredibly quick, shifty, and agile, with a prowess for making defenders look silly – YouTube “Kenton Keith vs. Rob Hitchcock” if you need proof – Keith was Saskatchewan’s go-to-guy for big plays on offence throughout the majority of his career with the Roughriders.
Statistics-wise, in four seasons in Saskatchewan, Keith racked up nearly 5,000 all-purpose yards and 29 touchdowns, all the while, and perhaps most impressively, never averaging fewer than six yards per carry a season.
Interestingly enough, as Keith explained, his experience in Saskatchewan nearly didn’t happen at all.
“I actually didn’t even know about the CFL when I came out [of college],” recalled Keith. “When I didn’t get drafted to the NFL, I had just had shoulder surgery so I was kind of discouraged and I went back home. I started working a job dealing with mentally-challenged people and I worked there for a month and I saw this Saskatchewan Roughriders contract on my table and I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ – I couldn’t even pronounce it.
“I was like, ‘it must be somebody trying to get me to come train.’ I didn’t even look at it. I pushed it to the side for two weeks. I went to work, then at work I got fed up and I went on break and never came back … ever [laughs]. I went home, looking in the trash, like, ‘where’s this contract at,’ then I found it and that’s how I got to the CFL.”
After parting ways with the Roughriders following four very productive campaigns, Keith signed a contract to play under the tutelage of Tony Dungy with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, thereby following the same path as his father Percy Keith and cousins Roger Craig and Ahman Green.
When given the opportunity to play in the NFL, Keith immediately stood out, even in the company of legends of the sport like Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne.
As a member of the 12-win AFC South division champion Colts, Keith primarily served as a backup to starting tail-back Joseph Addai. Despite predominantly serving as a situational player, Keith still picked up over 600 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.
Although Keith, no doubt, plans on getting back into the NFL – at the time of the interview he was en route to Dallas to speak with Dungy and a number of interested NFL ball clubs during the league’s annual Super Bowl festivities – there’s no doubt that Roughrider fans everywhere would want the former two-time CFL West all-star to come back for another run at a Grey Cup Championship or two in Saskatchewan.
Moreover, if Keith’s attitude towards the CFL is any indication, it seems that he wouldn’t have a problem with a second stint in Saskatchewan either.
“I’ve got much love for the CFL,” Keith said. “I’m actually working out with a guy up here, his name is Courtney Smith and he plays with Winnipeg. I’ve been working out with him for a couple weeks and we just talk about the CFL, how people need to give the CFL more credit, and just how fun the game is. The overall game in the CFL is a lot more fun and it’s not as hard on your brain. It’s less political and you can actually just be yourself.”