Takk McKinley’s intentions are clear.
“I’m here to get the quarterback,” he said at the Scouting Combine.
The Green Bay Packers need someone to get the quarterback. While they re-signed their most productive pass rusher, Nick Perry, they lost Julius Peppers, who ranked second on the team with 7.5 sacks, and Datone Jones, who led the team in quarterback hits. With Clay Matthews coming off a down season, Kyler Fackrell making limited contributions as a rookie and Jayrone Elliott failing to take the next step after making some key plays in 2015, the Packers’ pass rush is as shrouded in questions as their cornerback corps.
One potential option with the 29th overall selection would be McKinley, the playmaking edge rusher from UCLA. The Packers had a formal interview with McKinley at the Scouting Combine.
McKinley was named a first-team all-Pac-12 performer as a senior. He did a little of everything with 61 tackles, 10 sacks, 18 tackles for losses, six passes defensed, three forced fumbles and three hurries. McKinley finished second in the conference in tackles for losses and third in sacks.
According to Pro Football Focus, McKinley had 57 total pressures. In PFF’s pass-rushing productivity metric, which is a formula of sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap, McKinley finished sixth in our group of the top 12 edge rushers. Moreover, he was fourth in run-stop percentage, which measures impact tackles vs. the run. Alabama’s Tim Williams and Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt were the only other players to finish in the top six in both categories among our top 12 edge-rusher prospects.
McKinley (6-2, 250) had a strong Scouting Combine with a 4.59-second clocking in the 40-yard dash, a 33-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump. His 24 reps on the 225-pound bench press were impressive considering his arm length (34 3/4 inches) and he had a torn labrum, which he had surgically repaired after the Combine.
“First things first, I got to get healthy,” he said, noting the surgery could keep him out until training camp. “There's a lot of talent in the NFL. When you get to the NFL, everybody's big, everybody's strong, everybody's athletic, so it's all about your technique. Once I get healthy, once I get the right coaching and once I get the right technique, I feel like for years to come I'll be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.”
It’s been a challenging road to the NFL.
His mom? She walked out of his life when he was 5.
His dad? As a kid, he traveled to Mississippi to meet him. Only to find out, through a paternity test, that it really wasn’t his father.
He was raised by a grandmother and an aunt. His grandmother, Myrtle Collins, died in 2011.
“Nothing in my life came easy for me,” McKinley said. “I'm the person that never complains. Even with the shoulder, I just never complained. The loss of my grandma, I never complained. I just put my head down and kept grinding. So, little things like a shoulder, not growing up the best life, not knowing my parents, I just brush it off and keep going. I mean, life moves on.”
In one way, McKinley hasn’t moved on. Ramen was a source of cheap sustenance when times were tough. That same bowl of ramen keeps him grounded now that his future looks infinitely brighter.
“I love all types — chicken flavor, beef flavor, shrimp flavor, Oriental flavor,” he said. “The thing behind that, growing up as a kid times got rough for me and my family. We couldn't have like spaghetti or a top meal, so ramen back in the day was like 30 cents. Auntie would send me to the store to get Ramen and that would be dinner for me. But it's a constant reminder that I'm not going to change no matter who I am, no matter how much money I get. Ramen been there for me — been there for me Day 1 and I ain't never going to forget it.”
Nor will he ever forget his grandmother, who was there for him when those who were supposed to be there weren’t around.
“She'd be proud of me,” he said. “She probably wouldn't say anything. She'd just have tears, and that's all I need right there.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.