Sports

Former teammates preparing for NFL training camp

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Brandon Keeler is living out the dream of every kid that straps on a pair of shoulder pads.

The 2002 Federal Way High School graduate was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals after April’s National Football League Draft following a stellar career as a defensive back at Eastern Washington University.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Keeler was a mon-ster on defense while at Eastern Washington. He finished his 43-game career — including 34 as a starter — with 243 tackles to rank 10th in school history. He was a three-time, All-Big Sky Conference performer, earning first-team as sophomore, second as a junior and honorable mention as a senior. He had five interceptions and five passes broken up.

Keeler will be one of six safeties in the Cardinals’ training camp when it opens up Friday at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. The Cardinals will break camp on Aug. 23.

It’s probably a long shot for Keeler to make Arizona’s final 53-man roster unless he has an unbelievable training camp. But the feat is not unprecedented. His former Federal Way High School teammate, wide receiver Shaun Bodiford, rolled through the final cuts last year and made the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State.

Keeler was the 39th ranked strong safety entering the 2007 NFL Draft after running a 4.65 40-yard dash in a pre-draft camp.

Keeler’s best season at Eastern came in 2004. As a sophomore, he was selected to the Football Gazette All-West Region third team, was a first-team All-Big Sky safety and his 114 tackles rank eighth in school history.

While at Federal Way, Keeler was more known for his exploits on the track than on the football field. He won Class 4A state championships in the long jump (22-8) and 110 hurdles (14.49) as a senior. He also placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (38.63) and sixth in the triple jump (43-10 1/2). As a junior, he was part of the state championship 4x400 relay team, which also included Bodiford.

In football, Keeler was selected by the Seattle Times as one of the top-80 recruits in Washington and was a second-team, All-South Puget Sound League South Division wide receiver. He finished his senior season with 16 catches for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

Bodiford still with the Green Bay Packers

Keeler won’t be the only Federal Way High School graduate in an NFL training camp next month. Wide receiver Shaun Bodiford will be back with the Green Bay Packers after earning a spot on the team’s roster last year.

Bodiford won a berth on the Detroit Lions’ roster during training camp, but was released by the Lions in October and was immediately snatched up by the Packers.

But his season was cut short when he suffered a broken right leg on the opening kickoff in a game against the Minnesota Vikings in November.

“I was trying to make something happen,” Bodiford said. “The coaches said this is your week and spring one. I just wanted to get that first kickoff going so I hit the hole pretty hard.”

Bodiford had played six games with the Packers and had been handling punt and kickoff return duties. He was averaging 16.2 yards on five kickoff returns and 4.2 yards on six punts. He also had three tackles on special teams.

Bodiford rehabbed hard in the offseason and is on track to make an impact with the Packers this year.

“Sports wise, I’ve been training with a personal trainer and trying to rehab my leg the right way,” Bodiford told Packers.com. “I’m ready to show the Packers fans and the coaches what I can do on the field. I’m a go-getter, so I want to go fast 100 percent of the time, and the trainers and doctors always have to remind me that my rehab is a slow process. All my life I’ve been taught that being fast is a good thing, so the most difficult part is slowing down and rehabbing the right way.”

The offseason was also a big one, in terms of academics, for Bodiford.

“I went back to Portland State. There were a couple of classes I needed to take to finish up school and get my degree. That meant a lot to me. I think going to school and getting your degree is beneficial for football players. The smartest players always play the longest, so I think it’s good for me to sit down, pay attention and learn vital information in the classroom.”

While at Federal Way High School, Bodiford lettered twice in football and track and was the Eagles’ offensive player of the year as a senior in 2001. As a running back, he rushed for 970 yards and 12 touchdowns and earned second-team All-South Puget Sound League honors. He was also all-league as a cornerback with 65 tackles and five interceptions as a senior.

The 5-foot-11, 187-pound Bodiford then went on to star at Portland State after attending Butte (Calif.) Junior College his freshman and sophomore seasons.

He led Portland State with 51 catches for 545 yards and five touchdowns as a senior, but wasn’t invited to the NFL Draft Combine and signed with Detroit as a free agent following the seven-round draft.

Bodiford and Keeler teamed up on Federal Way’s state championship 4x400 relay team

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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