LA Chargers News

Thomas Keiser, from Undrafted Free Agent to the final 53: Exclusive Interview

By Jake Hefner
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Undrafted free agents…

Players that The Chargers historically, have a talent for unearthing…

Names like Antonio Gates, Mike Tolbert, Malcolm Floyd, Kris Dielman and Kassim Osgood are just a few players synonymous on that list that continues to grow today.

Normally having to work twice as hard as any of the other players on the team in training camp, all undrafted free agents have one goal in mind:

Get noticed.

In 2011, Stanford DE/OLB, Thomas Keiser signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent. Two years later he was released and signed with The Chargers in May of 2013. In his first season with the bolts, Keiser finished the season leading the Chargers in sacks for the outside linebacker unit.

“It was a great feeling finally getting the opportunity to play last year. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders; like I had broken free and finally got to show what I can do on the field.”

Keiser was waived at the end of preseason in 2013, but was quickly signed back on to the practice squad following his release.

Four weeks later…he was called up and granted a starting opportunity.

Dec 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; SSan Diego Chargers linebacker Thomas Keiser (90) and defensive end Corey Liuget (94) sack New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) in the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A season ending injury to fellow linebacker Dwight Freeney gave Keiser the chance to show the team that he belonged.

“I had been very disappointed and frustrated not making the 53 man roster at the end of the preseason so, in the four weeks of the season, leading up to being activated, I flew around in practice and trained extra so that I would be ready to seize the opportunity that I had earned.”    

When Keiser hit the field, he did it the only way he has ever known how, fast, physical and intense, qualities that were embedded in him from his father at a young age.

“He knows nothing about football and when I started playing at age 11, he had me mentally preparing for a game the way he used to mentally prepare for his job when he served in the Army as a Green Beret.”

While Keiser still is considered a “new face” to The Chargers roster, he feels like he has grown in his second season with the team

“When I came to the NFL, I knew I needed to develop the techniques, as well as my mental game, in order to thrive as a player. The giant leaps I have made every offseason are my reason for excitement entering every new season, because I finally realize how much more I can improve as a player.”

Since the off-season began, The Chargers defense has gone through a major overhaul. Defensive coordinator John Pagano, always expects competition from his players in order to make the final 53 man roster. Keiser has come to understand the role he must play and what is expected of him as a player.

“He’s very demanding, but that’s exactly what you want from the man who runs the defense. We must always strive to improve individually, as well as collectively.”