By Jon Sauber | @JonSauber
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – Arden Key has made all types of headlines in his time at Louisiana State. From leaving the team in February 2017 to his performance when facing the Alabama Crimson Tide, Key has seemingly done it all.
Key, an edge rusher who is regarded as a first-round pick, recorded 20 sacks in his three-year career at LSU, but had just four in eight games during the 2017 season. His issues away from the field have attracted enough attention to define Key as a risky, if talented, pick.
Key had eight tackles against Alabama, the eventual national champion, and its outstanding offensive line. But Key spent four months away from LSU’s football program for what he previously called “personal reasons.” At the National Football League Scouting Combine, Key did not volunteer much to clear the air on why he was away from the program.
When asked why he took the four-month leave, he simply replied with “no comment” and a smile. He did, however, explain what he tells teams when they ask him about his leave.
“I tell them the real,” Key said. “I tell them that was my biggest adversity. I went through it, I’m past that, and I’m moving forward.”
He added that teams are understanding about his off-the-field decisions, and they’re “blown away” when he explains why he took his leave from LSU.
Key said his college coach, Ed Orgeron, taught him a lot of lessons in their time together. Key added that the most important one was how you respond to the adversity that Key frequently dealt with at LSU.
One of his most highly-publicized issues was his weight fluctuation. Key weighed in at 238 pounds at the combine, which is near the low end of his range since he began his college football career.
Key said that he weighed as much as 280 pounds in his time at LSU, and started the season somewhere between 270 and 275 pounds.
His explanation for gaining so much weight was simple.
“Eatin’,” he said with a laugh.
Through Key’s struggles he didn’t speak to the media, which he said was a personal decision.
“I wasn’t ready,” Key said, “I was still dealing with my adversity that I went through. Then I wasn’t playing up to par, so I decided not to speak with the media.”
While Key has dealt with plenty of adversity off the field, it hasn’t shaken his confidence. He said he noticed teams game-planning for him when he was on the field at LSU. Key understood their strategy.
“They knew if Arden Key was on the field, they had to game plan for Arden Key,” he said.
Key said that he wants teams to know that while he has dealt with adversity off the field, that doesn’t change who he is on the field. “I’m the best pass rusher in the class,” Key said.
Key added that the pre-draft interview process hasn’t been difficult for him. “There’s no challenge to it,” Key said. “It’s just go in and be you. If they like you for you are, they’ll eventually pick you up…The film speaks for itself, it’s just do you like me as a person.”
Key also gave credit to Chuck Smith for helping him drop the extra weight he added. Smith, who Key says he has worked with since his senior year of high school, is training Key in Phoenix, Ariz. as he prepares for the NFL Draft.
Key said that he’ll continue to train with Smith as he works toward his pro day on April 4.