The Raiders and their fans certainly are optimistic about rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, judging by what has been seen and heard from coaches and teammates through organized team activities and the recent team minicamp.
Even in a few short weeks, Mack’s athletic ability and motor have been impressive. Veteran defensive tackle Pat Sims recently called Mack “a freak” of an athlete.
“We just have to put him in the right situations, and he’s going to be hell (for opposing offenses),” said Sims.
Now, in a story written by Mack for Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback, Mack provides some insight into his thinking and personality that should provide even more optimism. Mack, the fifth overall pick in the draft, appears to be an athlete driven to succeed in the NFL.
Mack may have some big money in the bank now, but savings and stock portfolios don’t seem to rank high on Mack’s motivations list.
“I think my biggest motivation is something my dad always told me, even back in elementary school and middle school,” Mack wrote. “There is somebody out there working harder than you and trying to take what’s yours. In the NFL, that rings even more true. There are guys working every day to take your place and your role, so when your name is called, you’ve got to make the most of it.”
In the story, Mack credits such veterans as Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley for sharing their wisdom and techniques and says he looks forward to being used in multiple ways on the Raiders defense.
“I think I’m at my best as a wild card on defense, being used at multiple spots on the field as strange as that might sound,” he wrote. “That’s what the team has laid out for me, and I think that will be a good thing. I like the idea of being the guy other teams have to look out for.”
Mack says one thing he’s been keeping in mind throughout practices is to eliminate mistakes, learn from his errors and avoid making the same mistakes twice, so he can be effective right out of the gate in Game 1 of his rookie year.
He also wrote that he has goals for 2014, including a list of quarterbacks he wants to sack this season, with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady at the top.
Obviously, his background drives him. Mack had few offers out of high school and played at Buffalo in college – not an NCAA powerhouse. So, Mack wants to prove his worth. That could mean a big rookie season for No. 52 in silver and black.
“I’ve been taking it day by day, learning a lot, keeping my ears open and knowing that I don’t know it all,” he wrote. “That’s how I got to this point.”
So far, it's a winning formula.