By: KaSandra Hunt | Football Fan Rush Media April 20, 2014 4:21PM CT
Within the past year, names like A.J McCarron, Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney were rolling off football fans and reporters tongues like saying Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson. We (football fans) watched as these, potential first round draft picks thrilled us with big pro like plays, game changing outcomes and their mega fan base. Many (like myself) sat around debating on which of these players would could go #1 in the draft and why. Then a monkey wrench was thrown into the mix and the wrench’s name is Mack…Khalil Mack that is.
Khalil Mack is constantly mentioned as a top prospect for the upcoming draft, yet not that long ago many had no clue who this 6’3 251 pound linebacker was. Well, let me introduce you him.
Mack hails from the state of Florida, which is well known for its football talent at very early ages. States like Florida and Texas are proudly recognized for their passion for high school and college football. Some high school and college player’s names in certain areas rank as high as pro level players. So how was Mack not on the radar?
Mack started his sports journey as a prep high school basketball player. Just as his name began to surface in what was then his favorite sport, his high school sports career took an abrupt halt his junior year with a patella tendon injury. While this can be a pretty serious injury, this only seemed to be a minor setback in Khalil’s sports journey. He returned to the sport stronger and more determined than before his injury.
Mack’s size and work ethic earned a call from Ashmon, Mack’s High School Coach to his father convincing him to let Mack try a new sport that could possibly allow Khalil to attend college on a full scholarship.
Now, if you are wondering how a high basketball player gets a chance to play college football without ever playing high school football in a highly recognized talented football state, well let’s see.
During Mack’s injury recovery period in high school, assistant college football coach of Liberty University was on a visit to Westwood High School, Fort Pierce, Florida scouting talent. While talking with Mack’s then high school head coach Waides Asmon, and Mack’s name was mentioned. Per Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports, Ashmon convinced Wimbley to take a look at Mack and stated “I think he’ll be a diamond in the rough” and it seems Ashmon was correct.
Wimbley took the chance and was more than impressed with Mack’s work ethic as well as the fact that he had first dibs on a possible football star that was on no one else’s radar.
Mack followed Coach Wimbley from sunny Florida to wintery Buffalo where Wimbley landed an assistant coaching position. Wimbley did not want to go in stepping on anyone’s toes as the new man on the totem pole, but he new a player like Mack could be the missing link in Buffalo’s football program. Wimbley immediately insisted and convinced the coaching staff to give Mack a look. Apparently, Head Coach Jeff Quinn liked what he what he saw because Mack clearly donned a Buffalo jersey.
After hailing as one of the sports best kept secrets, Khalil Mack was now garnering attention from commentators, pro recruiters and college football fans. Mack or “Macktion” was unbelievable to watch on the field. His explosiveness, power and unpredictability made him a challenge for most opponents to contain. Even Coach Quinn stated, “He wasn’t just someone who was going to put his hand in the dirt and rush, they (opponents) never knew what his was gonna do”. And that was very obvious in game after game. Mack’s talent was finally shining and there was nothing in the path of dimming his light.
One of Mack’s most memorable games was last year against Ohio State where he collected 2.5 sacks, had 9 tackles and a pick he returned for a touchdown. No wonder Buffalo had record attendance in 2013.
Mack’s instinctive ability to cover the ball carrier, super quick first step, agility and good body control has turned Mr. “Quiet Prep Basketball” player from Fort Pierce, FL into a top round one mention in the NFL Draft.
Mack was also pretty impressive at this year’s NFL Combine. His final results are listed below:
Vertical Jump – 40 inch
Broad Jump – 128 inch
20 Yard Shuffle – 4.18 seconds
Looks like his basketball past is playing a major role in his pro football future.
While these are truly top combine performer numbers, Mack still needs to perfect a few key areas of his game. He looks great on film, but I also noticed he needs to control his aggressive style of play. In doing more research this was also noted by Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com. Nawrocki pointed out that Mack can get a bit reckless. This is a key point because it can lead to unnecessary penalties on the pro level. I am sure that will all be rectified early in his pro career but his determination and mindset for perfection just will not have it!
So as I continue to re-adjust mock draft predictions while debating who will hold the #1 spot in this years draft class, one thing is for sure, Khalil Mack is definitely a front runner in those conversations.
Hats off to any team that lucks up on this monster rushing linebacker with the agility of a ballerina, strength of an Ox and eyes of a hawk, preying on the every move of the ball carrier. It should be a great selection choice.