Khalil Mack is not interested in being number two.
I spent time on the phone Saturday with the most unknown of the prospective high picks—outside linebacker Khalil Mack, from Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference. You might know some of his story: Started only one year in high school in Fort Pierce, Fla. … Buffalo was the only NCAA Division I school to offer him a scholarship … Liberty University also did, but he went to Buffalo because it was a higher level of football … Put an exclamation point on his first-round status in the 2013 season-opener at Ohio State with nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception (with another sack and forced fumbled called back due to a penalty). “A fantastic football player,” Urban Meyer said after the game.
He doesn’t talk about his triumphs with a cocky tone in his voice. It’s more of a knowledgeable one. “Nothing about that game surprised me,’’ Mack said. “I feel like I have played against better players than at Ohio State. I’ve just always had the opinion that with hard work and dedication, anything can happen. I’m proof of that. I’ve been blessed.”
Mack’s best fit is as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, though he says he can also play 4-3 end or outside ’backer, and, at 251 pounds, it’s not impossible that he could play inside as well. But his edge-rushing ability would be best employed coming off the edge in the 3-4. That’s what the Texans play. And he’s frothing at the prospect of playing on the same front seven with J.J. Watt. “I met him the other day,’’ said Mack. “It’d be perfect for me. He is one great player.” Mack visited six teams: Jacksonville, St. Louis, Houston, Detroit, Atlanta and Minnesota. All are in the top 10. It’s likely he’ll go in the top five on May 8.
He’d like to go in the top one. He’s not handing the crown of best defensive player in the draft to Jadeveon Clowney.
“I’m so competitive,’’ he said, “that I want to be the best, and I mean better than any rusher in the NFL now, or anyone coming in. I want to be better than Aldon Smith, all those guys. I respect Jadeveon, but I really don’t care what he does. I don’t care about the hoopla, the hype or any of that. I just want to go out on the field and compete and win. When I get out on the field, I turn on a switch and believe I can be the best person out there. Coming from Buffalo, I know I had to work hard to get to this point, and I did.”
“Got a gut feel where you’re going in the draft?” I asked.
“Not at all,” Mack said. “Wish I knew.”
He won’t have a long wait in the green room 10 nights from now. Maybe an hour, maybe less. I’ll be surprised if he gets past the sixth pick, now held (but for who knows how long) by Atlanta.
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Ten things you need to know about Earl Morrall.
- Morrall, who died Friday at 79 in Florida of Parkinson’s Disease, got picked in the 1956 draft second overall by the 49ers. Number 200 overall that year: Bart Starr.
- Morrall quarterbacked Michigan State to the 1956 Rose Bowl title, and he played infield during the Spartans’ only trip to the College World Series.
- In his second year in the NFL, the Steelers traded two first-round picks to obtain him from San Francisco. In his third year in the NFL, the Steelers traded him to Detroit for Bobby Layne.
Two weeks before the regular season started in 1968, Morrall, in his 12th pro season, was traded to the Baltimore Colts to serve as Johnny Unitas’ backup for the season. A week later, Unitas went down with an elbow injury. Morrall stepped in and led the Colts to a 13-1 season, won the NFL MVP award and led the Colts into Super Bowl III against Joe Namath and the Jets. The rest is unpleasant history in the Morrall family. He threw three interceptions in that game before being replaced by the still-recuperating Unitas, and the Colts lost in one of the great upsets in NFL history.
- Two years later, with Unitas hurt again, Morrall stepped into Super Bowl V and orchestrated a 16-13 Baltimore victory over Dallas.
- A year a later, on his 38th birthday, the Dolphins claimed him on waivers from Baltimore for $100.
- In 1972,filling in after Bob Griese broke his ankle in Week 5, Morrall went 9-0 as a starting quarterback in the Dolphins’ perfect season—the only NFL team ever to win every game, regular and postseason, that it played—and was named First Team All-Pro for the second time. But he was replaced by Griese as the starter for the Super Bowl after struggling in the AFC title game at Pittsburgh.
- The Dolphins’ practice facility is in Davie, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale. Morrall was the mayor of Davie in 1992.
- He wore a crew cut for all of his adult life.
- He leaves five children: Matt, Mitch, Mardi, Mindi, Meghan. (GALLERY: Classic photos of Earl Morrall.)