At 6'6", if you are thinking rush end, you are already starting to drool. Great height, long arms, ability to tip balls at the line of scrimmage. Ok, so what about speed? A reported 4.66 isn't shabby at all even if it's out of a fairly lanky 210 lbs. frame. What Ryan has is potential, a potential he plans on realizing this year. "This last season, it wasn't bad." Ryan said. "But, not even close to what I know I can do. I have room to grow, get faster and get better, so I have pretty high expectations this season."
Expectations that obviously are spawned a bit by his success this last year, McKinley ending the year with a total of 7 sacks. You might say that means he only put up two more the entire rest of the season because of that one rather sack-heavy game. Yes, but as you might guess, 6'6" rush ends aren't ignored at the line of scrimmage. "It was nothing but double-teams all year." Ryan said. "Wherever I was, I knew there were going to be at least two guys trying to stop me."
Considering his tackle total last year, that seems like it was only partially effective. That's the thing you look for though in any rush end. Sometimes and especially if you are not on the great all-around team, teams feel that if you are the key, they'll stop you from what they perceive you as the greatest threat to do. What do you do then? You improvise. "They'd try to stop me from getting around the outside, but I have the speed to run people down and I take pretty good angles." Ryan said. "You can't just get into one thing or if they stop that, they've stopped you and that's it."
Stopping isn't something Ryan likes to do. He'll even say admit that until that whistle blows and sometimes, after, he's only got one thing on his mind. "Whoever has the ball, that's who you cream." he said. "I'm relentless, but you have to be, especially when everything they are running is away from you."
Much like any football player at the prep-level, McKinley has his idols. Players that he epitomizes in how he thinks the game should be played. Considering his style and attitude, his choice is more than appropriate. "Grant Wistrom." McKinley said of the former All-American Husker and current, St. Louis Ram. "He's it. That's how you play the game. If there's anyone I want to be like and play like, it's him."
Wistrom, a person known for his intensity and a player known for intensity that was borderline intensity, but more than anything, Wistrom was known for one major attribute.
The engine that never shut off. That relentless almost blinding persistence to the play, never stopping, not even slowing down until someone was either down or out of bounds. "He was crazy." Ryan said of Wistrom as a Husker. "He played to the wall and that's how you have to do it. Never stop because when you do, that's when you've given up."
As individually focused as Ryan is on making himself the best player he can be, one of his main goals this year isn't just on those lofty personal stats, but something much more important to him in the end. For Ryan, it's the bottom line to being truly successful. "It's about the team." he said. "My biggest goal this year was to be captain and I am co-captain of my team. That means so much to me and we actually have a chance to play in the playoffs this year, so that's what I want our goal to be."
Considering Ryan's physical up-side and his obvious mental one as well, the schools that are sending him letters right now shouldn't be a surprise. Michigan, Iowa, Southern Cal, UCLA, Stanford and Nebraska, yes they are just letters, but that's a who's who list of letters if ever there was one.
So many schools, so many great opportunities, you might envy Ryan and all the potential choices he has ahead. Ryan said that he's not worried about the choices he could have, but the one choice he wants, the choice to have a chance to play for the school he's followed his entire life. "Nebraska." Ryan said of his childhood favorite. "I've followed them my whole life and have been a huge fan. If they offered me, I mean, that's my dream come true. The way they play defense, the tradition, I don't see you can't want to be part of that."
Though certainly idealistic in his wishes, Ryan is also very realistic in how he plans to approach recruiting his final year as a prep. Realistically, of course. Having letters from the aforementioned schools and planning on taking in camps and some possible unofficial visits, McKinley is quite ready to keep his options as open as they need to be. "Nebraska is like a dream to me." he said. "But, there's a lot of schools out there and I won't ignore any of them just waiting on the coaches from there. I have a whole year to look and I'm sure I will start this Summer."
15 sacks? A playoff appearance? A future Husker? Many are the goals for one, Ryan McKinley and if you ask him, he plans on achieving every one.
"If you don't set your goals high, you can't get better. So, set them up there and go after them. That's what I plan to do."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 402-730-5619