Rookie Keeping pace

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

To the delight of Jeff Keeping, the Argos are keeping him around.

The rookie centre, who was converted to an offensive lineman in training camp after playing tight end at the University of Western Ontario, made quite a smooth transition during the pre-season and cracked the 40-man roster.

Not bad for a guy who has a year of eligibility left at Western and was prepared to return to school.

"I don't want to act too surprised because I definitely was working to be here," said the 6-foot-5, 272-pound Keeping, 22, who never stopped smiling during an interview. "But having it work out like this is all right."

The Uxbridge native's first taste of playing offensive line came at spring camp with Western after a discussion with Mustangs coach Larry Haylor.

When the Argos worked Keeping out before the draft, they used him as an offensive lineman.

"Larry and I both kind of had the inkling that if I wanted to go (to the CFL), it was going to have to be as an O-lineman," Keeping said. "So he said: 'Well, you might as well get a spring camp in as an O-lineman. I was planning on going back next year and being an O-lineman at Western, but then this worked out.

"It (spring camp) was probably crucial in the process. It's only a week, but just getting the week of footwork and a little bit of the mentality of the O-lineman helps."

Keeping played on some special teams and was used as a backup centre in the pre-season.

When he began to realize he could compete, he started thinking he had a shot to make the team.

"I just started getting a little buzz and the guys were telling me: 'Just keep working, keep working,' " Keeping, a second-round draft pick, said.

"It was not necessarily I was going to make it, but that I was going to make it a tough decision."

In the end, the Argos decided Keeping was ready.

"Why not keep him," Argos coach Pinball Clemons said. "You may say he has another year of eligibility, but we would argue he's already good enough to play at this level.

"The experience he's going to be able to get here is going to benefit him to a much greater degree than the experience he would get at (the university) level. We don't feel he would be challenged to the same level as he would here."

WELCOME BACK JOHN

Running back John Avery, who missed both pre-season games with an adductor injury, was taking the reps with the starters yesterday.


Videos

Photos