Wednesday was the first time Arden Key had talked to the contingent of the Baton Rouge media since his abrupt leave from the team last spring. When the question of why was asked, his answer was, “No comment.”
It’s the same question NFL teams have been asking Key since the draft process started.
“It wasn’t difficult,” said Key when asked about answering NFL teams’ questions. “I just told them the truth and that was that.”
“Coming in, they were thinking what they were thinking, and then I come and blow them away with me. I just step in a room and talk to you and sit down with you. Then your view of me is different now, so I think I did everything the right way and just leave it up to God and bless me with whatever he wants to bless me with.”
Key said the questions were primarily focused on why he left LSU last February, where he went and how’d he gain so much weight.
The two-time First Team All-SEC member said his goal is to play at 250 after starting off last season at 280. He blamed his drastic weight gain on shoulder surgery he had in May, which kept him out of spring, summer and most of fall drills.
“I shouldn’t have came back as early as I was supposed to,” Key said. “I should’ve waited until about the Florida game to come back and be in shape and things of that sorts.”
LSU’s all-time, single-season sack leader weighed in at 238 at both the combine and pro day, but said he was up 250 three weeks after the combine but dropped weight to run the 40-yard dash on Wednesday.
Key’s 40 times were a disappointing 4.85 and 4.87 seconds. Although he was aiming for a 4.6 to 4.7, Key said he wasn’t worried about his overall time but more so the 10-yard split.
Despite the lackluster times and a junior season marred by injury, Key believed he helped himself with his work in the individual drills at the pro day, and he also believes in himself and where he should be drafted.
Once projected as a consensus top 10 pick, Key — who said he prefers to play as an end in a 4-3 alignment — has seen his stock fall all way down to the second and possibly the third round even after a junior season that saw him collect four sacks in eight games.
“It’s difficult not to get caught up in it,” Key said. “Because when I was looking the media you see all this stuff, how you go from almost being the No. 1 pick to a third round pick. I don’t understand it to this day. The talent is still there when you watch the Ole Miss game, the Alabama game, of course. You saw sophomore Arden Key starting to come back in. I missed spring, I missed summer. If you can name me a player who missed that much time and came back them same self, then I’ll be like, ‘Ok. It’s done, you can do it.’ But I can’t. I can’t name a player who did it, so it’s always work. My sophomore year I balled out because I was working.”
As a sophomore in 2016, Key posted 56 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks in 11 games. It’s that tape that has teams like the New Orleans Saints interested. The Saints have met with Key twice already and plan on meeting with him three more times over the next two and a half weeks.
“I’m totally convinced whoever gets him is going to get a great player,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron at his press conference on Tuesday. “He’s going to have a great career, and anything he had struggled with, I’m totally convinced that it’s over. Now I’m not sure, I’m not living with him or anything like that, but I talk to him, we had a great conversation, I think he’s in great shape.”
Added Key: “Whoever picks me up, they’re going to have a guy who, if they need a pass rusher, I’m the problem solver, and those who didn’t pick me up and pass me over, shame on them.”
For now, however, fans are just left wondering why Key disappeared for almost four months last spring. When asked if he will ever feel comfortable disclosing the reason, Key said, “I will. One day.”