PROVO — For former BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl, life in the National Football League has been a bit turbulent.
In his five years in the NFL, Kehl has bounced around among a handful of teams, but he’s hoping he’s found a home with the Washington Redskins.
“Things have been good. It's been a roller-coaster,” he said. “I've played five years and it's just kind of the luck of the draw.”
Kehl began his second tour of duty with the Redskins last November, one day after being waived by the Kansas City Chiefs. He enjoyed playing for Washington, and with star quarterback Robert Griffin III, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Redskins re-signed Kehl to another one-year contract in March.
"It was a fun ride. I'm excited to get back out there for year two,” said Kehl.
Of Griffin, Kehl said, “He's a stud. He's down-to-earth, an All-American kid. He's as impressive of a young man (as) you'll find, for being that young. He's humble and a team player — the whole 9 yards. I couldn't say enough about him. He's a great kid."
While Kehl likes playing professional football, he's learned that it is a business, and that some things are out of his control.
After starring at BYU, Kehl was selected by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the draft in 2008. The Giants moved up seven spots, trading picks with the Pittsburgh Steelers and surrendering one of their sixth-round picks, to snag Kehl.
“I got drafted, which was great, but I didn't get drafted to the best situation,” Kehl explained. “The (general manager of the Giants) liked me and grabbed me when I got drafted, but I don't think the coaches were on the same page. I almost think the GM might have overruled the coach when they drafted me. It was almost like from day one the coaches didn't really like me there, which is fine. That happens.”
As a rookie, Kehl made his first NFL start on Oct. 26, 2008, replacing the injured Gerris Wilkinson, and Kehl recorded his first NFL interception that day when he picked off the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and returned the ball 17 yards.
On Sept. 14, 2010, Kehl was waived by the Giants. The following day, the St. Louis Rams claimed him off waivers.
“It was kind of the same thing (in St. Louis),” Kehl said. “The coaches didn't like me. It's been trying to find a spot. Whenever I've been on the field, I've done well. In the preseason, I've always killed it. You just keep fighting."
Kehl spent a couple of seasons with the Rams before signing with the Redskins in April 2012. Kehl moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, playing in a reserve role behind London Fletcher and Perry Riley. But the Redskins let him go during their final cuts before the 2012 season.
Last October, Kehl was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, but after playing just three games, he was cut again.
That’s when the Redskins decided to give Kehl another shot.
Kehl is looking forward to the upcoming season, as well as the return of RG3, who suffered knee injuries late in the year.
"It completely destroyed our offense,” Kehl said of the loss of RG3. “He'll be back and we'll be ready to roll."
Of course, Kehl, who helped BYU claim back-to-back Mountain West Conference championships in 2006 and 2007, likes keeping tabs on his alma mater. Last March, he returned to Provo to spend some time watching spring ball and hanging out with Cougar outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
BYU boasted one of the top defenses in the nation last season. Kehl noted that the defensive approach employed by coach Bronco Mendenhall has evolved since ’06 and ’07.
“The biggest thing, which is a credit to these coaches, is that they've learned. They've learned from mistakes; they've learned from successes. They've adapted,” Kehl said. “This defense they put out here last year is very different, as far as scheme, from the one I played in in 2007. It's better now, because they've learned. I'm a little jealous of Kyle, because some of the stuff he does, I wish I could have done that. They utilize him in different packages and move him around. It's smart and it works. It's a credit to the coaches, because they've watched and they've learned and they're willing to adapt. They're not just stuck in something they've done. Credit to Bronco. The coaches are smarter. They've utilized players' strengths rather than sticking to the textbook. They're thinking outside the box, and fixing some of the coverages we used to run. It's not monumental changes; it's some little tweaks. It really helps. We see how it's evolved. I'm jealous. I wish I was playing right now in this defense. I'd be killing it in this defense."
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