At North Carolina A&T, much like other universities and conferences, student-athletes were left without a fall sports season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
And for NFL hungry football players like Dontae Keys, the decision to postpone fall sports has led many athletes to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal.
Luckily for the All-MEAC offensive lineman, plenty of Division I programs came knocking. But it was the FIU Panthers that Keys decided to call his new home.
“My relationship with the coaching staff is great and I am looking forward to talking with the entire staff a lot more,” he told 305 Sports. “I have been in direct contact with [offensive line] coach Joel Rodriguez and head coach Butch Davis.”
For the relatively young Panther offensive line, the addition of the redshirt senior is huge.
“If we were going to bring a transfer to the offensive line, we wanted to bring in somebody with maturity, who’s responsible, that’s conscientious,” Rodriguez said. “And that’s one thing that Dante has shown.”
The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder started in all 12 games last season, giving up only three sacks through 725 snaps. He guided the Aggies offense to the No. 1 total offense, scoring offense, rushing offense and time of possession in the MEAC.
Heading into the 2020 season, Keys was a preseason All-MEAC selection and FCS All-American candidate. And while Keys will have to transition to learn FIU’s system with just a little over a month until the season opener, Rodriguez believes he won’t have a hard time getting suited.
“The system that he ran at A&T was not too different from what we do here at FIU,” Rodriguez stated. “He’s played a lot of football against Power 5 schools, FCS schools and everything in between. He’s been successful and he also brings some flexibility in terms of where he can play.”
Keys has dominated primarily at right tackle for the Aggies for the past two seasons, but has experience lining up at left tackle, right guard and left guard.
During a season in which COVID-19 could keep players out for at least two weeks, his ability to play in multiple spots is essential.
“It shows some intelligence and it shows that he can learn the system,” Rodriguez added.
Keys has also set high expectations for himself as he eyes the NFL as the grand prize for all of his hard work.
“As a senior, I expect to dominate any and everything that comes my way. I plan to increase my draft stock to make my chances of getting drafted better.”
“[I want] to become stronger and faster than ever. I also plan to receive all-American honors at the end of the season.”