LB Mack draws impressive crowd to Buffalo workout
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — For someone who was lightly recruited coming out of high school, linebacker Khalil Mack is attracting an impressive crowd leading up to the NFL draft.
Representatives from all 32 teams were on hand Tuesday for the University at Buffalo’s pro day, and the projected first-round draft pick was the main attraction inside the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse.
“Thirty-two teams? That’s a blessing,” Mack said. “I don’t try to notice that. I try to keep that on the backburner. I’m still working hard, and that’s what it’s about with me. I don’t focus on the attention.”
Mack is becoming difficult to overlook. At 6-foot-3 and 251 pounds, he possesses the size, speed and versatility to play a variety of positions in any type of defensive scheme.
He also has impressive numbers over a four-year college career in the Mid-American Conference, which he capped by earning the Jack Lambert award as the nation’s top linebacker. He set an FBS career record with 16 forced fumbles and tied another one with 75 career tackles for a loss.
Not bad for someone who, coming out of Fort Pierce, Fla., first considered attending Liberty University, before being offered a full scholarship by Buffalo, and only after Liberty assistant Robert Wimberly was hired by the Bulls.
Some five years later, Mack had the NFL’s attention during a Bulls pro day that traditionally attracts between 15 and 20 scouts.
“That just shows you what high regard the NFL has of him,” Bills general manager Doug Whaley said of the turnout. “The sky’s the limit on him.”
Among those on hand were Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and Cleveland Browns rookie coach Mike Pettine, the Bills’ former defensive coordinator.
Pettine joked he just happened to be in town to pick up a few things he left behind.
As for his interest in Mack, Pettine broke into a wide smile and said: “Just a little bit.” Pettine then spent about 10 minutes on the sideline discussing Mack with Bulls coach Jeff Quinn.
“Absolutely the best player I’ve seen. He’s just so complete,” Quinn said of Mack. “He’s a game-changer.”
That was evident in a last year’s season-opening 40-20 loss at Ohio State.
Mack was in on nine tackles and had 2½ sacks. He returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown that put a scare into the Buckeyes by cutting their lead to 20-13 early in the second quarter.
“That was his coming-out party. The game wasn’t too big for him,” Whaley said. “He showed that he belonged out there. And those are the type of guys he’ll be playing against on Sundays.”
His production didn’t tail off, either. Mack finished the season with a MAC-best 10½ sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. He also had five forced fumbles and three interceptions while leading Buffalo (8-5) to only its second bowl berth, a 49-24 loss to San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
An NFL scouting report rates Mack as a top-10 draft prospect and lists “disruptive first-step quickness” among his strengths.
On Tuesday, Mack limited his workouts to individual drills and one 40-yard dash, in which he was clocked at 4.54 seconds. That was an improvement over the 4.63-second time he had at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month.
“It didn’t feel like me. I felt tight,” Mack said, referring to his time at Indianapolis. “I finished it up the way I wanted to today.”
Mack has been highly motivated to succeed since he first arrived in Buffalo. He wore No. 46 after discovering that was the number of his power ranking out of 100 on an NCAA football video game.
Though he might consider changing numbers after being drafted, Mack doesn’t intend to alter his approach.
“I feel like there’s a lot more that I have to prove, especially coming out of the MAC,” Mack said. “I feel like I’ve got to go out there and dominate on the next level.”