Kenton Keith - Running Back - 2003-06 - New Mexico State
associated Press - Oct 8 , 2007
Colts running back Kenton Keith walked into a whole new world Monday afternoon. His cell phone was ringing and reporters surrounded his locker.
The former Canadian Football League player, who never had a serious chance in the NFL till this season, had become an instant star.
"I knew I could do it," Keith said. "It was just a matter of feeling comfortable with the game, the tempo of the offense and my position as a whole."
For months, people around Indianapolis worried about the backup to feature back Joseph Addai. Critics and online message boards constantly asked: Who is Kenton Keith, and why would the Colts go into the season with someone so untested?
Keith heard everything, and Sunday he quieted all those doubts.
Like unknown Colts running backs before him, most notably James Mungro and Dominic Rhodes, Keith had an emphatic answer in his first career start. He ran 28 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns, caught five passes for 37 yards and, perhaps most important, protected Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning in passing situations.
Nobody seemed to notice that Addai was out with a bruised shoulder.
"I'm more proud of me being in there and keeping my wind," said Keith, who never had more than 17 carries in a pro game till Sunday. "I'd not really had a chance to go more than six or seven plays in a row in a game before this, and the week before I was tired after running five in a row."
It's not that Keith didn't have talent, he simply got lost in the shuffle.
In four CFL seasons, he ran for more than 3,800 yards, topped 1,000 yards
twice, caught 52 passes in 2006 with Saskatchewan and had eight TD receptions in 2003.
He also wanted to add to his family lineage.
One of his cousins is former NFL running back Roger Craig, the first player in league history to top 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Another cousin is Ahman Green, who had six 1,000-yard seasons in Green Bay before joining Houston this year, and his father, Percy, like Green and Craig, was a running back at Nebraska.
Unlike his cousins and dad, though, Keith wound up going at New Mexico State where he rushed for 2,134 yards in 39 career games and dropped off the radar of most NFL teams.
One, the New York Jets, signed him in 2004 -- after his first CFL season. Buried behind Curtis Martin, LaMont Jordan and B.J. Askew, the Jets cut him before training camp opened and Keith headed back to Saskatchewan.
"At the time, I didn't know what a training camp body was," Keith said. "When I left, I knew what it was. They didn't really need me."
One game changed everything.
Some contend the Colts (5-0) could put almost anyone in the backfield and have a 100-yard rusher, and there is a hint of truth to that. Mungro, primarily a short-yardage back during his five seasons with the Colts, ran for 114 yards and a touchdown in his starting debut against Philadelphia in 2002 and Rhodes ran for more 1,104 yards in 10 games -- an NFL record for undrafted rookies -- in 2001.
Yet the Colts insist there's more to playing the position than impressive stats.
"Most of the backs that come into this league can run," Dungy said. "It's the other things where experience comes into play, things like pass protection, audibles and route-running. We weren't really on the lookout for an experienced guy once we saw the guys in the preseason. We felt they'd be fine."
Now Keith is the toast of his native Omaha, Neb., and Indianapolis.
He had 87 missed calls by the time he made it back to the locker room Sunday, and heard tales of Omaha hangouts being filled with old fans watching the Colts game.
But the 27-year-old isn't overwhelmed by his new fame.
"I think people are expecting me to be overjoyed or whatever word you want to use," Keith said. "I just did what I've been doing.
"I don't know what they'll do right now. I'm pretty sure if they go with me or with me and Joe, yesterday gave them the confidence I can do it."
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