Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

How Did I Get Here?

Khalil Mack went from playing one year of high school football to becoming the fifth pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Oakland Raiders rookie retraces his steps and dishes on teammates, his biggest motivation and the QBs on his sack list

A few weeks ago, I was out on the field for one of my first practices with the Raiders, and I looked around the huddle: LaMarr Woodley. Antonio Smith. Justin Tuck. Charles Woodson. Pat Sims. That’s when it hit me: Wow, I’m going to be on the field with these guys. It was kind of surreal. It wasn’t too long ago that I was waiting to find out where I was going to be drafted, and now I’m part of this team, working toward a common goal. It’s extremely crazy, but I’m crazy enough to think it’s normal.

I’ve been taking it day by day, learning a lot, keeping my ears open and knowing that I don’t know it all. That’s how I got to this point. I only had one scholarship offer coming out of high school, probably because I only played one year of football in high school. My journey to the NFL was unique. Let me retrace those steps to tell you how I got here:

Life at a small school

Although it wasn’t a powerhouse program, I loved my time at Buffalo. I invested a lot of hard work and time there to get myself to this point. We were not featured on national television as much as other Division I football programs, so I had to be even more impressive in my workouts, practices and games to dominate and distinguish myself as a player.

I played pretty well against Ohio State early in my senior season, and I think that went a long way in showing NFL teams I could thrive against tougher competition. 

The NFL Scouting Combine

Guest MMQB

While Peter King is on vacation, we asked four NFL figures to fill in on our signature Monday column.


June 16

49ers TE Vernon Davis 


June 23

Bears coach Marc Trestman


July 7

Raiders LB Khalil Mack


July 14

NFL Network's Rich Eisen

I spent weeks getting ready for the biggest job interview of my life. The pressure of performing in front of 32 potential employers was high, but at that point, you have to trust your preparation, instincts and confidence. It is a grueling process, and while we understand that millions of dollars are on the line, players are also faced with the reality that even if we achieve our dreams, we might only get to do it for a few short years. 

Between the drills, the medical exams and interviews, the thing I remember most about the combine was the feeling of brotherhood among the prospects and respect we all had for each other. The competition for jobs was high, but we had a common bond and mutual respect that I know will continue in the NFL.

The draft was a blur

The NFL draft was a special experience and it went by fast. I tried to soak up every minute of the different activities the NFL set up for us, but admittedly, it was hard to focus on anything other than where I was going to be selected. That speculation, combined with the overwhelming media interest, was indescribable. Only at the draft did I truly understand the expectations and promise we as draft prospects are bringing to a team and to a city. You realize in those few days that you are not only playing for yourself, your family and your teammates, but for the fans and the city that invest so much to support your success.

The night before the draft, the Mack family joined together for a private dinner. We ate family style at a steakhouse in New York’s Meatpacking District. It was a way for me to celebrate my accomplishments to this point, thank them for all the support and prepare for the next step in my career. I remember DeMaurice Smith stopped by and made a surprise visit to meet my family that night and the feeling of support he gave me was important. It made me realize that there are others in the business of this league beyond my family, like my agent, my union and eventually my teammates, who have my back.

Roger Goodell met Mack onstage at Radio City Music Hall after the Raiders made the University of Buffalo star the fifth pick in the draft. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Roger Goodell met Mack onstage at Radio City Music Hall after the Raiders made the University of Buffalo star the fifth pick in the draft. (Elsa/Getty Images)

The NFLPA Rookie Premiere

The NFL is a business. We know that as players, but the experience that hammered that home for me the most was the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. The event, driven by top sponsors and licensees, brought some of us together again, but this time officially as NFL players. Our union sets up this event annually to introduce us to NFL partners, sponsors and licensees. The demands and rewards of the business are tied together and it is amazing to see how many people are behind the scenes working every day to help connect us with our fans. For three days we were up from dawn through the evening taking pictures, doing media interviews, signing cards and memorabilia and most importantly, understanding the size and scope of the business of football. Being an NFL player entails so much more than just playing football, and we are in a unique position to take advantage of the popularity and interest in our sport. We have a responsibility to being the best possible professionals we can be and at the NFL level that means taking advantage of every opportunity we can to build our personal brand and help grow the game.

Finally hitting the field

Only after all of those experiences did I finally get to spend some time with my new teammates in Oakland for organized team activities and minicamps. The opportunity I have with an historic franchise is a special one. The fan base here is incredibly supportive and there is certainly merit to the traditions and mystique of Raider Nation. We have a good team, and I feel fortunate to learn from players I admire and respect. I want to learn a lot about what it takes to be successful and the work I put into honing my craft can only be enhanced by what I can learn from the coaches and players around me. It takes a tremendous amount of personal responsibility and commitment to succeed both on and off the field in the NFL and I am confident that my teammates and I can achieve great things.

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45 comments
number18
number18

Can you sez"GhostWriter"??

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

Looking forward to Rich Eisen taking over this column next week.  Wish it was a permanent change.

Knowitall
Knowitall

I'm sure we'll get the usual very concerned comments from Peter King on political matters when he returns from vacation.

He's covered guns, gay marriage, gay athletes, and the like. So I am sure he will weigh in on the disgraceful, tragic, dangerous conditions at the US border brought on by the President's refusal to enforce border protection, and his refusal tosend a strong message to Latin American countries dumping their indigent at our feet. I'm sure Peter is drafting that criticism right now. We can count on him to bring great objectivity to the political events of the day.

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

I don't think you should expect a major revelation for a guest writer sitting in for fat boy. This kid is going to be great for the Raiders I was so  happy they drafted him we got lucky  and he seems to enjoy being in Oakland, the past is the past Raider fans Mack is our future. I hope he pile drives Brady and Manning into the ground

WARaider
WARaider

This might be a tame article for some (not sure we need anything else controversial).  It speaks of his intelligence which is huge.  I can think of a few highly drafted knuckleheads that have set back the franchise considerably.  He definitely does not remind me of Rolando.  Getting fired up for this season.  Go Raiders

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

Khalil - from a fellow UB alum - good luck with your career - you're going to need all you can get up in Oakland. Wish you all the best

Buck2185
Buck2185

Kahlil, I hope you enjoyed writing this article for Peter, because it will be the last. You broke the cardinal rule and said you want to sack Peter's little Tommy Brady.

chiefsheath
chiefsheath

Blake Bortles is not in the AFC West.


SteveRowFla
SteveRowFla

Not one mention of the former FU QB/Preacher or the former Mizzou linebacker.  All in all a great column, with no social engineering!

ctg42
ctg42

Mack is the kind of kid everyone wants on their team. 

dennis
dennis

Another "I" - "me" story? Not interested, see ya.

Hello1813
Hello1813

Hope you have a good rookie season.  Thanks for your article.   As for the others criticizing the article, what do you expect him to write about.  He is just coming into the league and training camp hasn't even begun.

ruggerrick9
ruggerrick9

I appreciate what PK is trying to do here, but these player written articles often come off sounding like a "What I Did This Summer" report from an elementary school student.  

DavidCharles
DavidCharles

I am always amazed that guys who stand a good chance of being a bust (any high draft pick) are fawned over and  consulted about anything. This kid hasn't played a down. Who cares what he thinks?

Wombat
Wombat

Seems like a nice kid... article sounds a little like "What I did at Summer Camp", but nice...

rskins09
rskins09

Well written article ...Saw plenty of clips of  Khalil  via  Mike  Mayock  .. He had Khalil  #1  on his draft board ...From what I saw looks like Khalil is going to be a superstar in the NFL...How did all those Florida schools -Colleges-  let him get out of the state ....

OmahaOwl
OmahaOwl

What a racist right wing nutbag. You should be kicked out of America and sent back to whatever country your family immigrated here from. I love that the republicans have totally screwed themselves and wont get control of the white house for at least 14 more years. Stupid elephants.

MatthewEllingson
MatthewEllingson

@Knowitall How do you function on a day to day basis? Like, do you worry about some hypothetical political association the food you eat for lunch might have? Hmmm, peas are green, environmentalists like green things, therefore peas equal socialism! But that's probably not fair since you "Knowitall" and you already knew that peas are only two steps away from Communism. Ok, I'm just having fun with you, but do answer me this "Knowitall": could you write a comment so completely off topic that even you questioned why you wasted both yours and every single person who has had to accidentally lay eyes on your comment's time?

Mike26
Mike26

@Knowitall It's too late and I'm too tired for anything witty, so I'll be direct:  Stop your betching and read something else if you don't like it (or just skip that garbage).  Either way, SHUT UP!

number18
number18

@WARaider you Really think He actually wrote this article,yeah you probably do.

Buck2185
Buck2185

@dogpaws4x4 @Buck2185  So original and mature. I would have to climb down a few rungs on the ladder of life to even respond to that, therefore, nevermind and enjoy your basement....

eddie767
eddie767

@dennis it was supposed to be one. It's his intoduction/get to know him article. But then he did mention his teammates and learning from them, so it isn't a me-me story. Is it? 

Wombat
Wombat

@Hello1813 Not criticizing Mack... just lamenting the lack of substance to the article. 

usameos6
usameos6

@ruggerrick9 I think part of the problem is that players are mindful of getting ripped to shreds if they write anything controversial - so they likely go through their agents and attorneys to ensure there's nothing offensive to anyone in the articles they write.

ruggerrick9
ruggerrick9

@Wombat Sorry Wombat, I posted my comment before I read yours.  Great minds think alike, I suppose.

Wombat
Wombat

@OmahaOwl Ah ah ah! No name calling! That's such a declasse, left wing thing to do... and we would all be better off without the elephants OR the asses... I mean donkeys in office.

Knowitall
Knowitall

Whoa, there little Husker hooter. Stupid elephants? Now you have gone too far!

usameos6
usameos6

@MatthewEllingson @Knowitall Don't forget about the Monroe Doctrine - once peas go Communist, carrots, onions, broccoli and brussel sprouts are soon to follow as well. 

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Mike26 @Knowitall  Who are you to always be telling people what to do anyhow?? Btw, rocket Scientist, what is "Betching".....

Mike26
Mike26

@Buck2185 @dogpaws4x4 "So original and mature."   Believe me, you don't have to climb down ANY rungs to match 4x4's level.

ruggerrick9
ruggerrick9

@usameos6 @ruggerrick9 Then why bother?  No one is asking for anything controversial, just a little less obviously-written-by-someone-else would be nice.

Mike26
Mike26

@Buck2185 @Mike26 @Knowitall Just think Buck - in about 4-5 weeks your summer break will be over and you'll be back to your job as editor as City-Town Middle School Weekly Newsletter.  Then you won't have to worry about having to read my "drivel" and "orders".

Wombat
Wombat

@Buck2185 @Mike26 @Knowitall I am assuming that :betching is an attempt to avoid censorship in this forum. I've said it before and I'll say it again... If all you can complain about is a person's grammar or spelling then you have nothing to complain about. You sir have nothing to complain about.

Mike26
Mike26

@Wombat  I'd like to see you say that to Dwight Shrute's face!

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