READ: Mack's road to being a top prospect
VIDEO: Mack's highlights at Buffalo
Q&A: Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn
AUDIO: Texans 24 Hour Radio Podcast
His former head coach Jeff Quinn, at the University of Buffalo, calls it a “great story.”
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack had just one offer to play 1A college football that brought him from Westwood High School in Florida to Buffalo. Mack redshirted his freshman year of college but did not let that stop him from taking advantage of his one opportunity.
“You could tell he was just like a sponge," Quinn said. "You could tell he was learning the position, he was learning the sport, he was learning the game. We talk a lot about intellectual development, football intelligence, and he was in watching film and stuff, not only on him but on other positions, other great players.”
Mack went on to become a four-year starter for the Bulls and earned first-team All-MAC honors three consecutive seasons, from 2011-2013. Heading into his senior season, he already held school records for forced fumbles (11) and tackles for loss (56). Buffalo opened the 2013 season against the highly-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Despite losing 40-20, Mack was a standout with nine tackles, 2½ sacks and a 45-yard interception returned for a touchdown. Nationally, Mack started garnering more attention outside the Mid-American Conference with his performance.
“Especially being the first game of the season, it helped with the stage,” Mack said at the NFL Combine. “I feel like there were a lot of people watching that game. It helped me tremendously.”
Many NFL draft scouts now have Mack rated as an early first-round draft pick. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock even declared that Mack would be his No. 1 overall selection.
Quinn isn't surprised. After all, he has seen what Mack can do.
“He wanted to become a student of the game and his play-making ability was increasing day by day,” Quinn said. “Every day we would get out there and have to figure out a way to block this guy because one guy can’t block him. There were times this year when we saw two, three, four guys each play trying to block him.”
While Mack is a prototypical outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, he could also fit in as a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3. There, Mack would really shine in pass-rush situations, according to Mayock.
“My versatility helps me in a lot of ways,” Mack said. “If you have a guy who can rush the passer, as well as drop in coverage- that covers two of the big issues on the defense.”
The 2014 NFL Draft begins Thursday, May 8 and ends Saturday, May 10.