Coming into this season, Weir (MS) High School's Markell McKinley was considered one of the top defensive linemen in the state of Mississippi and very likely in line for post-season honors. He was selected to the SuperPrep and PrepStar pre-season All-American teams as well as being selected to The Clarion-Ledger's pre-season top 40 prospect list"> Coming into this season, Weir (MS) High School's Markell McKinley was considered one of the top defensive linemen in the state of Mississippi and very likely in line for post-season honors. He was selected to the SuperPrep and PrepStar pre-season All-American teams as well as being selected to The Clarion-Ledger's pre-season top 40 prospect list">

A MARKELL MCKINLEY UPDATE

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/highschool/football/2001/markellmckinley1.jpg" alt="Markell McKinley" align="left" width="103" height="139"> Coming into this season, Weir (MS) High School's Markell McKinley was considered one of the top defensive linemen in the state of Mississippi and very likely in line for post-season honors. He was selected to the SuperPrep and PrepStar pre-season All-American teams as well as being selected to The Clarion-Ledger's pre-season top 40 prospect list

In fact, he not only had earned several pre-season honors, but he had also been offered a scholarship by Mississippi State during their summer football camp. Things looked great for this muscular, 6-3, 270-pound youngster with the amazing 4.8 forty speed.

However, something happened during his season to keep him from attaining his normal number of tackles and all the special honors that would normally come with those tackles. "I had a really bad high ankle sprain this season," said Markell. "I think it happened in week three or four."

Now, an injured ankle is not all that bad but a high ankle injury is, especially to a lineman who relies on his quickness and who has to constantly rush the passer. What made this particular injury unique is because the day after Markell's injury, his cousin, Mississippi State running back Dicenzo Miller, injured his ankle in the same fashion.

All Mississippi State fans remember how badly the injury hurt Dicenzo and kept him out of the lineup for several weeks. Markell was determined to not let his injury affect him that much. Amazingly, according to Markell, "I missed a game and a half because of it."

He explained why he came back so quickly. "The reason I did was because I wanted to play, I wanted to compete," Markell said with obvious determination in his voice. "Playing hurt comes with the job."

Even though he was once again playing, he wasn't full-speed and he could tell. "I couldn't move laterally for anything. The fastest I could go was about three-quarters to half speed. It took a big hit out of my arsenal. My swim move wasn't as quick. I couldn't spin to the left like I could normally do. It hurt to run and even to walk."

Only near the end of the season did he start to feel like the Markell of old. "I guess by playoff time I was about 85%, according to the trainer. My confidence was coming back. I was getting back to talking and challenging people. I ended the season real strong. I'm just now back to 100%."

Although he didn't earn a spot on The Clarion-Ledger All-State team -- probably due to his injury -- he did earned something else this season, and that is attention from college coaches, a lot of college coaches. "I have been receiving calls from everywhere. They say things like they want me there and that I can play there. I've talked to Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina State and a lot of different schools. It is hard to keep up with all of them."

While the calls have been non-stop during the season, Markell, who had committed to Mississippi State prior to the season, seems to be sure about his commitment. "My commitment to Mississippi State is still really strong. I am still very solid."

Even though he is still firmly committed to Mississippi State, he, like so many other committed players, wants to enjoy the recruiting process. "I am going to take my visits," Markell said. "I am going to visit Mississippi State on (January) 11th and I am going to visit Ole Miss on (January) 18th." He is talking to other schools but has not finalized any other visits as of December 19th.

Some folks would call Markell McKinley a soft commitment because he wants to visit other schools and enjoy the recruiting process. Others might see it another way. They might see a youngster who wants to do nothing more than reap the rewards of working hard by taking five three-day, all-expense paid vacations. Can you blame him?


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Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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