Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
Keyton Signed to NFL Free Agent Contract by Detroit Lions
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Offensive lineman Darren Keyton, a 36-game starter during his Central Michigan football career, has been signed to an NFL free agent contract by the Detroit Lions. Keyton earned the deal after impressing the Lions’ coaching staff during a tryout at last weekend’s rookie mini-camp.

Keyton, a native of Traverse City, Mich., is the fourth Chippewa from the 2012 CMU senior class to be signed by an NFL team. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, going to the Kansas City Chiefs, while safety Jahleel Addae (San Diego Chargers) and wide receiver Cody Wilson (Detroit Lions) were inked to free agent contracts. In total, 10 Chippewas currently reside on NFL rosters.

A mainstay on the CMU offensive line in 2012, Keyton started all 13 games at right guard, extending his consecutive starts streak to 25 games. He was a key part of an offense that averaged 6.2 yards per play, second best in the MAC, produced nearly 400 yards of offense per game, and scored 30 more points in 10 games. Keyton and his offensive line mates allowed just 15 sacks in 2012, which ranked No. 17 nationally. He helped paved the way for running back Zurlon Tipton, as he rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns, the second highest total ever by a Chippewa, and protected quarterback Ryan Radcliff, as he threw for 3,000-plus yards for the third consecutive season (3,158) and posted the best touchdown-to-interception ratio of his career (23-9).

The 2012 CMU Offensive Upfront Co-Player of the Year, an honor he shared with Fisher, has also played at center during his CMU career.

“When you’re an interior offensive lineman, that’s an important thing,” Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz was quoted as saying in a story on “You have to have the flexibility to play guard or center.”

“Typically, you take seven offensive linemen into a game, so somebody’s got to play center if your center gets hurt. Usually, it’s one of your guards or your back up. But the more you can with stuff like that, the better.”

The Lions currently have an open competition at both right guard and center along their revamped offensive line.