Keisel’s Path to Pittsburgh (Part Two)
And, the Pittsburgh Steelers select…
…DL Brett Keisel.
On April 21, 2002 the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Brett Keisel late in the 7th round.
“I picked up the phone and the caller asked ‘How would you like to be a Pittsburgh Steeler?’ As fast as I could say yes, I did. It was just unbelievable. Pure joy. I can’t even begin to explain it. It is just an exceptional feeling. It’s a dream come true..a dream I’ve had since the third grade.”- Brett
From Marlys Good’s article, Steelers choose Keisel in 7th round: Greybull Standard,-April 25, 2002:
Sunday afternoon. Time running down in the football draft that had sports fans glued to their television sets all weekend. Then the magic words–“and the Pittsburgh Steelers select…DL Brett Keisel.
Just seconds before the news hit the screens, the phone rang in the home of Brett’s parents, Connie and Lane Keisel, in Fairview Utah.
“I picked up the phone and the caller asked ‘How would you like to be a Pittsburgh Steeler?’ As fast as I could say yes, I did. It was just unbelievable. Pure joy. I can’t even begin to explain it. It is just an exceptional feeling. It’s a dream come true…a dream I’ve had since the third grade.”
The Greybull High School grad said that when he was younger, he wasn’t sure the dream would be realized, but, “Once I started playing at BYU, I knew this day would come.”
Pro scouts had been looking at Keisel during his junior year, but when he was injured as a senior, his confidence waverled slightly.
“I wasn’t so sure. You always wonder what is going to happen-injuries and things like that. You never know. I could have blown a knee and been all done. You just take everyday, don’t think about it, and just go play.”
He ended up having an outstanding senior year for the Cougars, played in the Senior Bowl, where he had another outstanding performance, then signed with an agent, and began working out in Phoenix through Jan. and part of Feb. From there he went to the Combine in Indianapolis. It was a wake up call.
“There were 32 teams, each with about 10 people and about 40 people from each position. It was huge. You always wonder, but it was so crazy. There were so many people and you think ‘What are my chances?’ but you just do the best you can.”
It was originally thought that Keisel would be picked in an earlier draft, But Saturday came and went. “Then Sunday I kept thinking ‘it will come this morning.’ I thought the fourth or fifth round. It still didn’t come, didn’t come and didn’t come. By the sixth round I started getting calls (from different teams) asking me if I wanted to come play there, what kind of a system I liked playing under, but no one was picking me up”
While Brett was on the phone, the 35 or so guests, which included his brother and sister-in-law, Chad and Jamie and their sons, Gabe and Zack from Greybull, youngest sister Kalli, who is attending BYU, and extended family and friends, that included Greybull grad Sarah Johnson, were trying to get information to see what was going on. “Then it came on the screen and our whole house cheered.”
Lane Keisel was perhaps more nervous during the wait than his son. “He is undoubtedly my most intense-biggest fan, and he was having a harder time that I was I think,” Brett said with emotion. “He kept going outside, coming back in, going back out.”
In a statement follwing the draft, Steeler Coach Bill Cowher said, “And Brett Keisel, the last guy we took, defensive lineman, defensive end. Played opposite Ryan Denney at BYU. Good, tough, motor guy that, again, plays hard. He can grow into the 290 range. We love his speed. Just has to learn to work and play in the scheme.”
Brett just laughs, “I can do that (gain weight).”
Surrounded by family:
Connie Keisel knew in high school that this was what he wanted, and that he had chosen football (college-level) over basketball because he thought he had a better chance of going to the next level. “But I honestly didn’t think it would happen. You just support them, love them and help them.”
Connie said that, “It is just a real thrill. So few get this chance. Looking on the web page, we saw about 25 signed as free agents, but they (Steelers) signed just seven or eight in the draft. I though, ‘Wow. They chose Brett above all the others there!’”
The Keisel house was packed with about 35 people, down from the 75-plus expected originally until a full-blown blizzard kept some away. “We had a pretty good time Saturday,” she said, but by Sunday the mood had changed.
“We were all exhausted; emotionally drained. All of us were tense and felt so horrible for Brett. There was so much emotion.” Connie said her son would watch the draft, go downstairs to play some pool, come back up, then disappear to play Ping-Pong. But then came “the call” and all the suspense and waiting was over.
Brett leaves Fairview Thursday, but had to do a little shopping before making his Pittsburgh debut. There will be rookie camp, press conferences and a banquet, and “I have to get some ‘rags’ to wear,” he said.
His mother explained that her son is not exactly a clotheshorse and his casual wardrobe would have to be expanded to include some dress clothes. But, she predicted, the first purchase will probably be a “new truck. He’s been driving a little dumpy car for the past few years.”
Always a Buff:
Brett might be a “Utahan” now. And he might have been a BYU Cougar during his college years, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
He sharpened his teeth on opponents while playing for the Greybull Buffs, in football, basketball and track. And he knows he has a huge following in his home town.
‘To my fans back there, I want to just say thanks for all the support-there is plenty more to come. I love Greybull. It will always be home. I’ll always be a Buff.”