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From Portage to the Pros

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Nick Keizer (photo courtesy of The Kansas City Chief's roster)

By Josh Carlson

Growing up in Portage, Michigan, Nick Keizer always wanted to be a professional athlete. Finding his love for football at a young age, he had a dream to be in the NFL. From High School, to division II, and all the way to the NFL Superbowl, Keizer has had a journey that many work for and few achieve.

“It’s kinda stuck with me my whole life,” Keizer mentioned as he reflected on his childhood dreams of the National Football League.

Sports were always a part of his family; Keizer grew up with two brothers who were also exceptional athletes. One played baseball, and the other football — both at the University of Michigan

Of his family’s athletic pedigree, Keizer says, “we’ve been blessed…we’ve all gotten to play college sports or the next level.”

Receiving All-State honors in high school, Keizer went on from Portage to Grand Valley State University. In his career, he tallied 11 touchdowns and gained 734 yards in the 36 games played. He also received All-American honors in 2017 and led Division II tight ends for yards per catch (17.4). 

After his senior season, Keizer participated in an event many merely dream of:  NFL Pro day. Keizer made an impression, giving 27 reps on the bench (four more than any tight end at the combine) and a broad jump of 10-1– which was third best at his position for the combine that year. Although he was not drafted, Keizer signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent, where he joined standout Matt Judon, a fellow Lakers alum.  

Transitioning to the NFL isn’t something everyone can do. 

“For me, it wasn’t just college to pros, it was Division II to pros. So, it was kind of a big jump,” said Keizer. “I mean there is a lot of good talent in Division II, but the game is so much faster when you get up to the professional level, so it kind of took a second. Every guy (in the pros) would be the best guy I would play in Division II. It’s all about continuing to grow and adapt, and adjusting off the guy in front of you.” 

After pro day, he then spent the year with the practice squad on the Ravens but was released following the conclusion of the season. Now a part of the Chiefs organization on the practice squad, Keizer speaks highly of the winning attitude and culture that they have set for success. 

“The people in the organization, they have a winning mentality and they do things the right way,” said Keizer. “I’ve been with the Ravens, and they do things the right way, too, but Kansas City seems different. They are all highly motivated people doing the right things, and the right process.” 

Keizer continues, “Beyond that, it’s just good people. The coaches are good people, they’re patient. They work with you. All the players are cool. There are not a lot of big egos in the room.” 

Many kids who play sports fantasize about winning championships. Whether it be fantasizing about that fourth quarter stop to win or dreaming about catching that touchdown as the fourth quarter winds down, anyone who plays sports aspires to know what it feels like to win a championship. On Feb. 2, 2020, Keizer got to experience that feeling.

 “It was a little surreal.” Keizer continues, “to be a part of that down on the field, it still hasn’t quite hit me.”

Keizer took a souvenir from that day. 

“I even scooped up a little confetti and put it in my pocket,” he said. 

Keizer was in the stands and made his way down to the field as the clock hit zeros and the confetti started raining from the sky. He worked hard for that moment–his whole life, really. He took every opportunity he possibly could to allow him to achieve his dreams of kissing the Lombardi.

When asked if he was going to wear his championship ring, Keizer replied with a chuckle,

 “You bet I’m going to wear that thing.”