Keeping nose what to do

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

The Argos believe they have a real keeper in Jeff Keeping.

Capable of playing on both lines of scrimmage and smart enough to absorb the nuances of defence and offence, the biggest problem for Keeping has been staying healthy.

When he made his starting debut on the offensive line in the team's final regular-season game last year, Keeping tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

During training camp this year when he made the switch to defence, he blew the same ligament in his right knee.

As quickly as his learning curve, Keeping's healing powers have been just as quick.

He returned for last week's game in Winnipeg when Keeping was used in the Argos' three-man rotation at nose tackle, but he'll now be asked to assume the mantle of incumbent beginning with tomorrow's late-night tilt against the B.C. Lions.

"I feel I've earned this position," Keeping said yesterday as the Argos were preparing to board their charter for Vancouver. "It has been a goal of mine to start, but it got delayed because of injury. Now my goal is to perform, to make plays and stir things up. I'm just ecstatic."

Keeping, veteran Marc Pilon, who was released this week, and rookie Matt Kudu rotated at the nose against the Bombers.

Even though the Argos lost the game 16-9, Keeping can take solace in the personal victory he attained.

All the diligence and perseverance paid off for Keeping, who said his knee felt fine afterward. For precautionary reasons, he wears braces on both knees.

"I'm back on my feet," Keeping said. "I've healed faster than expected. The whole idea behind all the hard work, making sure I knew my assignments, staying longer in meetings was to step in when needed."

The 6-foot-5 Keeping is an Uxbridge native who played his university football at Western.

When he joined the Argos last year at rookie camp, he bulked up to 275 pounds as he made the transition from receiver to offensive line.

Coming into camp this year, Keeping knew he had the necessary size to play on either side of the ball, but he worked on his body composition and became much leaner.

Noah Cantor, who retired this past off-season, tutored Keeping at nose tackle and the lessons Keeping learned should serve him well in football's trenches.

"Noah was such a technician at the nose position," Keeping said.

"He knew all the little intricacies."

Keeping, who turns 24 next month, spends his off-seasons working with his dad, Berick. The elder Keeping runs a high-rise advertising company called Apex Sign Installation and Service Inc.

A sure sign Keeping has evolved into a legitimate player will be evident tomorrow when he starts his first meaningful game on a stage he hopes to relish.


Videos

Photos