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Kristick headed to Shrine Game, chasing NFL dream

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Events leading into the NFL draft are crucial for college players with professional dreams, and Keaton Kristick realizes how much so.

The Oregon State senior outside linebacker is living with his parents as a way to get back to basics, and to focus all his time and energy into making himself as attractive a draft prospect as possible.

Kristick's first opportunity to improve his status comes this week during practices and other activities leading up to the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

The buildup to the all-star game is just as important - maybe more - than how he does in the game. NFL scouts will be around watching every move of the players during practice.

"It's an important game against the guys I'm going against in the draft," Kristick said. "I have to prove, not just that I can hang with the guys, but dominate in the game."

Once the game is over, Kristick will return home to keep training for the NFL combine. He has been invited to the annual event, which will take place Feb. 24-March 2 in Indianapolis.

That's where the top draft picks are looked at in various agility, strength, speed and intelligence tests. Medical and personal background checks are done, and interviews conducted.

How he grades out there can make or break him going into April's NFL draft. Kristick is ranked as the No. 15 outside linebacker available in the draft by NFLdraftcountdown.com.

"It's all good news going to that," Kristick said. "It's going to be crazy what we have to go through."

Something that may hurt him in the evaluation is when the medical personnel look over his chronic stinger problem. He's a hard hitter, but sometimes hurts himself in the process.

To prepare for the Shrine Game, combine and OSU's pro day in March, where scouts do a mini combine for OSU players, he's been working out with Ikei Sports Performance in Arizona.

Former OSU safety Al Afalava, now with the Chicago Bears, used those trainers to go from probable free agent to a sixth-round pick who saw significant playing time as a rookie in the NFL.

Afalava drastically improved his strength, speed and agility for his pro day performance. That led to several personal workouts with teams.

"It's pretty hectic," Kristick said of the training schedule. "I'm working out or training nine hours a day, I'm changing my diet and my sleeping habits."

It's fortunate the training center is near his family's home. Another benefit is his parents can make sure he goes to bed at a normal hour.

He has cut out the late night, early morning video game sessions. That kind of focus when it counts helped him turn into a two-time all-Pacific-10 Conference linebacker.

"Keaton's development is due to Keaton Kristick," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "You just showed him where the classroom was and he would do well. You show him a film room and he would study."

Kristick hopes to put on 10-15 pounds, while keeping his speed. He's 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds now.

If he can do that, Kristick could be an interesting prospect for teams to consider. He has experience as a two-year starter with the Beavers because of his knack for finding the ball.

"Our coaches enhanced his ability, utilizing him really well," Riley said. "They put him in position to make plays. And that's what he is, a playmaker. He can run, and he's a great hitter. He loves to play the game. He plays it with a passion."

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