McKillop Chasing NFL Dream

After playing linebacker in high school and making the switch to the defensive line in college, Chris McKillop will likely have to make the switch back to linebacker to have a shot in the NFL.

By his statistics alone, former Pitt linebacker Chris McKillop should be an outstanding National Football League prospect. He made 44 tackles as a defensive lineman last season. Unfortunately for McKillop he is a tweener. Now 22-pounds lighter than his listed playing weight of 265 at Pitt, he will likely have to learn a new position to play in the NFL.

"We believe Chris has his best opportunity to make the NFL as a linebacker," McKillop's agent, Richard Katz said.

So, for the first weekend of the month McKillop participated in the 34-player rookie tryout camp of the New York Jets.

"I played right outside linebacker the whole weekend and thought I played well," McKillop said. "I started all weekend and didn't make many mistakes."

"We started every practice with open field tackling," he continued. "Coach [Eric] Mangini even mentioned my name!"

McKillop also did little things right to earn a roster spot, such as catching the attention of special teams coach Kevin O'Dea and strength coach Sal Alosi.

However, he was not signed out of the camp. On May 15, the Jets signed five players, including journeyman linebacker Jared Newberry.

"They called back and said there were not enough roster spots, but to stay in shape" McKillop said.

Still, the Kiski grad has hope after receiving a tip from Panthers assistant strength coach James Smith.

Smith and Alosi have a connection and discussed McKillop's prospects.

"Sal told James the coaches love me," McKillop said. "The only thing was they didn't think I was heavy enough to be a 3-4 outside linebacker."

"My agent says if they call back, they wouldn't want me at less than 250 pounds."

The Jets current right outside linebackers, Victor Hobson and Matt Chatham, are listed at 252 and 250 pounds, respectively.

When a football player performs so well in college, but then has difficultly landing in the NFL, there is a natural feeling from his fans that combines and weights are stressed too much.

Pitt fans would recall Jerry Olsavsky, an undersized but All-American linebacker who was drafted in the 10th Round of the 1989 Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, then starred as a Rookie All-Pro to help the Steelers make the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Due to McKillop playing on the defensive line in college, comparisons to Olsavsky comparisons have not been commonplace, but the two have met.

"Mike McGlynn [former Pitt lineman drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles last month], is from Youngstown and through that I've said ‘Hi' to him a few times," McKillop said. Olsavsky is a Cheney High graduate and the current linebackers coach at Youngstown State.

"He came to Kiski to recruit us," McKillop said. "And I remember him from playing Youngstown State [in 2005]. That's when I had my first sack!"

McKillop lists winning the Big East championship in 2004 as his most cherished memory playing for the Panthers. He feels Pitt's defense will continue to improve in 2008 and yearns to play football again if for no other reason than to experience locker room camaraderie again.

He graduated with a history degree a year ago and has been working on a communications degree since then, often completing his courses online.

McKillop is currently 12 credits short and if he doesn't stick with a pro football team will likely complete his second degree in the fall.

Of course, that is if he doesn't sign with a pro team.

"The window is just opening to the NFL for Chris," Katz said. "There are other teams interested. We're just shooting to get him in to camp."

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