The Next Level: Three former GVSU football players get invited to NFL minicamps

GVL/Luke Holmes  Keizer prepares for a home game against Tiffin. The tight end will compete for a spot with the Baltimore Ravens this fall. 

GVL/Luke Holmes  Keizer prepares for a home game against Tiffin. The tight end will compete for a spot with the Baltimore Ravens this fall. 

Kellen Voss

Most kids who grow up playing football have dreams of playing in the National Football League one day. For three former Grand Valley State football players, they are one step closer to making that dream a reality.

In the week following the draft, tight end Nick Keizer and safety Garrett Pougnet were signed as undrafted free agents and were invited to the training camps of the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.

Defensive linemen Sydney Omameh, who last played for GVSU in 2016, was also invited to training camp for the Indianapolis Colts. GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell has seen these players grow in their time as Lakers, and couldn’t be prouder of these young men.

“It really makes you believe in the process, and they can have great playing careers because of all the things they’ve done on and off the field,” Mitchell said. “You feel good for the players, and you also feel like these guys getting to the next level is a good sign in terms of player development.”

The tight end position in Allendale will not be the same without Keizer, as he led all GLIAC tight ends this past season with 29 receptions for over 500 yards and nine touchdowns.

Also leading all tight ends in the nation in yards per catch, Keizer earned many postseason All-American honors by, Don Hansen’s Football Gazette and CoSIDA Academic All-America, as well as being named to the All-GLIAC team.

Early in his career at Grand Valley, Keizer was mostly used as an in-line tight end, blocking on almost every play as a 6th offensive linemen. But the progress he made as a pass-catcher, especially in his final season, was amazing to see for the program.

“He really developed later in his senior year to make a lot of plays on the football, and so we had to find a way to get the ball to him,” Mitchell said. “For our level, he was a complete tight end, really controlled the line of scrimmage in the running game, and he was great in the passing game.”

Meanwhile, Pougnet, who was a leader in the back of the defense, made an impact this past season for the Lakers. He lead the team in tackles (82), tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (5.5), as well as forcing and recovering two fumbles, grabbing an interception and earning All-GLIAC first team honors along the way.

For as special as Pougnet was on the field, he was even more impactful off of it and Mitchell saw his leadership first-hand.

“Garrett is one of the most intense, passionate defensive players I’ve ever had in my time at GVSU,” Mitchell said. “We’ll really miss him on and off the field, since he was an emotional leader that a lot of our guys respected.”

After being invited to training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, Sydney Omameh didn’t make the final roster. Instead of sulking, he moved on to the Canadian Football League, spending a year with the Ottawa Redblacks before being invited to spend time with the Colts this season.

Transferring to GVSU for his senior season, Omameh made quarterbacks all over the GLIAC fear him, totaling 45 total tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss in his 13 games with the Lakers. Omameh has always played football with a great motor, and Mitchell knows that will continue to the next level.

“Sydney took an interesting path to get to where he is, and he’s also a GV guy, so I hope he can stick in the NFL,” Mitchell said. “He proves that if you’re a guy who wants to make it to the next level, those dreams aren’t dead when you come to GVSU.”

As Mitchell and the rest of the football team congratulate these guys, they also need to look towards the future, as the absence of Keizer and Pougnet will place large holes into the GVSU roster.

But thanks to the culture imposed by Mitchell and his staff, that “next man up” mentality has been instilled into these young, talented players at GVSU, as they look to take no steps back despite the losses of these future pros.

“I do have confidence in the talent that we have at both the tight end and safety spots,” Mitchell said. “(These guys) had a big influence on the field, but a bigger influence in the locker room, and I hope that our young guys can step in and fill those holes.”