I had the opportunity over the weekend to speak with Arizona Cardinals, and former Mountaineer, Keilen Dykes. I wanted talk to him about his triceps injury which put him on the injured list for all of last season, and what his position with the Cardinals was. Then we did what any other Mountaineer fans do when they get together: talk Mountaineer football. Dykes shared some candid views about WVU AD, Oliver Luck, had high praise for one of his former coaches, and talked about what he's doing during the NFL Lockout.
Dykes played DT for the Mountaineers and was a four-year starter. The Youngstown, OH native was a two-time All-Big East performer during his junior and senior seasons. Dykes spent most of his rookie season on the Cardinals practice squad, but did see playing time in a few early season games the following year.
Dykes injured his triceps during last year's preseason that sidelined him for the entire season. I asked him how the injury was doing. "It's fine. I'm just working out," he told me. "Getting ready for next season. It's healed, I'm just waiting for clearance from the doctors to resume playing."
Dykes stayed in Arizona while undergoing rehab. His situation with the Cardinals is that he is technically a free-agent, although he told me that he would like to remain with the team that signed him as a free-agent after going undrafted in 2009. Before the lockout began, Dykes told me that his agent had been contacted by three teams looking to employ Dykes when he returns to full health. Including Arizona, the three teams that he told me about all have large needs at DT, and Dykes could get a real shot at quality playing time on any of the four teams.
I asked him if he'd heard any news on when the lockout might end. He told me that his agent told him that the players targeted date of getting a new CBA signed, and ending the lockout, is July 4. That is about the latest that the lockout can drag on before it infringes upon next season. He said that if the lockout doesn't end on July 4, then he could see the labor disagreement drag into August or beyond.
I asked him what he had been up to during the lockout. Like many NFL players, he seemed to enjoy having a few months away from having a calendar of events, team meetings, and OTA's to deal with. He said that he "was enjoying the time off. I just took my family to Disneyland on Thursday. I'm enjoying my time with the family, stuff like that. Relaxing. Working out. Getting ready for next season."
We went back in time and talked about getting recruited by the Mountaineers. According to Scout.com, Dykes was a three-star prospect, and was recruited by numerous schools. When it came down to choosing a school, WVU was always near the top of his list. There was one coach in particular that made a huge impression on Dykes and his parents.
"Mom and dad loved the campus. They liked it before I ever visited. When I went there, I loved the visit. Coach (Jeff) Casteel was the one that recruited me. He helped me out a lot. Casteel played a big part in me going to WVU."
Going into college, Dykes didn't have the grades to meet most school's eligibility requirements. This is one area that Casteel tremendously helped Dykes and where other schools didn't. "Coach (Casteel) wanted me to go to night school. He believed in me. Some schools wanted me to go the JUCO route to work on my grades. WVU showed the most interest."
From talking with Dykes, I had the feeling that he owed much of his opportunity to play in the NFL to Jeff Casteel. From helping Dykes to get his grades up, to teaching him how to be a standout performer, Casteel was Dykes' guide to the NFL.
I asked him what he will remember the most about his playing days in Morgantown. "Just being around the guys. Pallin' around. I still remain in contact with (Johnny) Dingle, Scoot (Berry), and the other defensive linemen I played with. I enjoyed the bowl victories, but the time that I got spend with my teammates is what I liked the most."
We discussed the situation that happened in Morgantown over the past few weeks that led to Bill Stewart's resignation. He asked me what I had heard happened. I told him my sources told me that (EDITED FOR CONTENT). He said he could see that. He didn't have much to say about Bill Stewart or Rich Rodriguez, who originally recruited him. He did want to talk about Oliver Luck, however. Luck came on board last year following the retirement of longtime AD, Ed Pastilong. Luck came to Morgantown a year after Dykes began his NFL career.
"Man, that guy (Luck) seems like he wants all the attention," Dykes told me. I agreed with him to a degree, but I said that Luck's aim is to win a national championship, and the move to replace Stewart could be a step in that direction.
"Yeah, if we were to ever win that national title," Dykes said, "Luck would be the one to hold the trophy first, not Holgorsen."