Where are they now? Bud Keyes was last Green Bay-area QB to be drafted and he went to Packers

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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Part of an occasional "Where are they now?" series on former Packers.

Bud Keyes had seen his name pop up on the internet over the last few months, heard a few mentions about his odd place in NFL and Wisconsin history.

Up until the 2020 NFL draft, Keyes had been the last Green Bay-area quarterback to be drafted into the league.

Ashwaubenon’s James Morgan was selected by the New York Jets in the fourth round April 25, ending the area’s decades-long drought — one Keyes didn’t know about until Morgan’s story and his tie to Keyes circulated this winter.

RELATED: James Morgan goes from Wilder Park workouts with his dad to NFL acclaim after being drafted by the Jets

“I have heard of him but honestly after high school I didn’t know where he went until recently,” said Keyes, who prepped at Green Bay West. “Now I know about his story.

“It’s very surprising. There’s good football. There was good football when I was playing and there has always been good football in Wisconsin. I can’t figure. I don’t know why. But it is surprising that there hasn’t been more kids come out of Green Bay.”

Bud Keyes

Keyes grew up in Green Bay and went on to play at Wisconsin. He was a teammate of Badgers head coach Paul Chryst while quarterbacking the Badgers from 1984-87. He was selected by the Packers in the 10th round of the 1988 draft.

“I’m pretty sure it was a weekday,” Keyes recalled of his draft-day experience. “It wasn’t even on a weekend. It was middle of the week and I went to class and I came home and then I started getting — I was still in my college apartment — and I got a couple of calls. The first call actually came from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they were about to draft me and then I also got a call from Green Bay and they did the same thing.

"The first call I got was in the ninth round but Tampa Bay ended up selecting somebody else. Then Green Bay had a choice in the 10th round before Tampa Bay did. So at that point I knew I was going to be drafted but I didn’t know which team.”

With no televised draft, Keyes sat around waiting for the land line in his apartment to ring again to tell him his fate.

It was his hometown team that did call in the 10th round — No. 256 overall — in 1988.

“To be drafted, I was elated because I didn’t know once there was that third coaching change (at Wisconsin) and the veer came in, I didn’t have a great feel of, 'This is going to get me ready to play in the NFL,'” Keyes said. “I probably would not have been drafted it wasn’t for Paul Gruber, who was our left tackle and ended up being (the No. 4 overall) pick in that draft (by Tampa Bay). Every team came through Wisconsin for a workout to take a look at Paul and the rest of us got to work out as well. I had some really decent workouts. I think that had a lot to do with it, I believe.

“With that, I was elated to be drafted.”

Keyes was part of a 12-man Packers draft class that was headlined by first-round selection Sterling Sharpe. It also included running back Keith Woodside (third round) and defensive back Chuck Cecil (fourth round).

“What I remember distinctly is Chuck Cecil,” Keyes said of his one training camp in Green Bay. “When he came he practiced harder than anybody. He made a name for himself on the practice field the first week he was there. He was turning heads. I think everybody knows who he is today because of that first week.

“Then when Sterling Sharpe came in, he was a special athlete too, obviously. Those two guys are what I remember about that training camp when I was in Green Bay.”

Keyes admits he hoped the Buccaneers would pick him knowing he would have time to adjust to the NFL behind 1987 No. 1 pick Vinny Testaverde. But in Green Bay, first-year head coach Lindy Infante had six quarterbacks to work through and Keyes was the only rookie. The Packers' starting QBs wound up being Randy Wright and Don Majkowski.

“They were trying to figure out a starter,” Keyes said of the Packers. “In hindsight, looking at the Tampa Bay situation it would have been a better situation for me at that time because we didn’t have to worry about No. 1 down there and you’re fighting for a spot. 

“It’s one of those things.”

There wasn’t enough time for Keyes to show out in Green Bay, and he was released before the season. He wound up in Tampa Bay briefly the next training camp but that was it for his NFL career.

Coming up in high school and into college, Keyes considered himself a scrambler, but he wound up running the veer for the Badgers under head coach Don Morton and once carried the ball 49 times in 1987. While at UW, Keyes played for three head coaches in Dave McClain, Jim Hilles and Morton.

“I think my skill set would translate to today’s game,” said Keyes, who was listed at 6 feet, 2 inches and 211 pounds. “I don’t know if I would be running the ball as much as some of these quarterbacks do.

“I really like the spread offense. I think I would have fit in quite well in that type of offense.”

Bud Keyes

Keyes has coached in the Indoor Football League and in high school and youth football during the last 15 years at DeForest High School but works full-time as a Wisconsin territory manager for American Flow Control, which manufactures fire hydrants and other water-related parts.

Keyes’ son Nathan plays quarterback at DeForest.

“I’ve always enjoyed the game, I’ve always loved sports,” Keyes said. “I was a three-sport athlete. I always loved all sports and just to be able to give back what I’ve learned. It took me a lot of years to learn what I learned and to help kids understand the quarterback position, which is a lot more complicated than the guys in Wisconsin have made it look.

"Some pretty good quarterbacks have worn the green and gold and have made it look easy and it’s a little bit more complicated than it looks. Just to give them and relate my experiences to them and help them with the fundamentals and along with the mental part of the game, it’s fun to stay involved.”

And now Morgan joins Keyes as part of a short list of Green Bay-area high school quarterbacks to be drafted into the NFL.

“I always look back on it very fondly,” Keyes said of his draft and brief NFL tenure. “It was a great experience when it lasted. For me, it’s also disappointing that it didn’t last as long as I would have liked it to. But I think it goes for 99.9 of the guys who enter the NFL. Not too many guys leave on their own terms.”

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