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Hard Work Pays Off for Keasey

Zak Keasey spent Saturday watching the clock, waiting for a call that never came. By late afternoon, the Redskins' rookie linebacker had figured he made the team.

He didn't know for sure that he made the Redskins' final 53-man roster until shortly after 5 p.m., when the team's public relation director contacted him to arrange a telephone interview.

"I'm kind of overwhelmed, I'm so excited," he said. "It's a dream come true to hear those words that I got a spot on the roster."

Keasey, who attended Princeton, signed with the Redskins as an undrafted rookie free agent in May 2005. The 6-0, 236-pounder first caught the eye of the coaching staff at the team's Rookie Camp in early May.

Said head coach Joe Gibbs: "I think what Zak did, it was one of those stories where nobody was giving him a chance, maybe because of his height. But from the time he got here, he was very productive on special teams, so we'll be counting on him there. Also, [linebackers coach] Dale Lindsey liked him at linebacker and liked his attitude.

"Zak didn't miss a play and went after it hard on every single down. He was somebody who earned it."

At Princeton last year, Keasey compiled 127 tackles, eight sacks, 16 tackles for a loss and two interceptions. He was a first-team All-Ivy League selection and earned the Poe-Kazmaier Trophy, the highest award give to a Princeton football player.

In preseason, Keasey impressed Redskins coaches from the get-go. He recorded an interception off Kyle Boller in the Aug. 6 scrimmage against the Ravens, then followed that up with a sack of Rod Rutherford in the Aug. 13 preseason opener against Carolina.

"I played every play like it could be my last one," Keasey said. "I put in extra work at Redskins Park and tried to do the little things, like watching game tape and getting in extra workouts to help me get over the hump."

The linebacker position was a crowded one entering training camp. Keasey beat out Robert McCune, Brandon Barnes, Jared Newberry and Clifton Smith, among others. Several of those players could be back on the practice squad, though.

"I knew it was a crowded spot and I knew there was going to be a lot of competition there," he said. "That helped me. Competition is a good thing. It helps everyone perform a little bit better."

From the outset of training camp, Keasey believed he had a legitimate shot at making the roster.

"I was picking things up well, so I knew right away I had a shot if I kept working hard," Keasey said. "Coaches were giving everyone a fair chance, so if I put in the hard work and gave it my best effort, I'd have a chance."

In jumping from Princeton to the NFL, Keasey said that the transition was difficult at first.

"Football-wise, the skill level is an unbelievable difference," Keasey said. "The speed of the game and the schemes that we're working on defense--it's definitely a step up. I just tried to put in that extra work to give myself the best chance for the job."

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