Khalil Mack, an outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, is among the most coveted players in the 2014 draft.
Amazingly, he received just two scholarship offers — from Buffalo and Liberty universities — and was a two-star recruit (out of five) by Rivals.com. Then again, he played just one year of high school football.
Mack, who is in New York for the draft, said he felt from early in his career that he’d wind up in the NFL.
“Probably from my first year in college, my redshirt freshman year,” he said. “Just going out there and seeing the talent that was out there in Buffalo, then going on the big stage and playing against the UConns and those different teams, played Tennessee throughout my career, the bigger schools. Just knowing that you can step in and make an impact on the game against those bigger schools and then actually dominate.”
A three-time All-MAC player and finalist for the 2013 Butkus Award, presented to the best linebacker in college football, Mack led the Bulls in tackling in 2012 and 2013, and last season had seven pass breakups and three interceptions — two of which he returned for touchdowns — and forced five fumbles.
For NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, the real eye-opener was reviewing video of Mack in a 40-20 loss to Ohio State, a game in which the Buffalo linebacker had 9½ tackles, 2½ sacks, and an interception return for a touchdown.
“The first thing I saw was explosion off the edge and that speed,” Mayock said. “Then he converted speed to power, when he used his inside arm and got up underneath the right tackle, and Jack Mewhort, the left tackle, who’s probably going to go in the second round. He jacked Jack Mewhort off his feet like he weighed 100 pounds.
“Then he had a pick-6 that was just stupid. He got the tackle off of him by putting his hands down, got his hands up, caught the ball and scored. He was dominant in the run game. You take the composite of that tape and… 4-3, 3-4, he could play for anybody.”
And that’s the approach Mack is taking.
“Wherever I end up, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I want to be the best Khalil Mack I can be when I get there.”