After not hearing his named called, Benardrick McKinney returned to the green room for Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft. Invited by the league, the Mississippi State prospect was going to wait it out until he got the long-awaited phone call from an NFL team.
"I was behind the stage, waiting, waiting for a long time, getting frustrated," McKinney said to Texans TV. "Then the second day came along, still waiting with me and my parents. When they finally called my name, I said I wasn't going to cry but my mom ended up laying on me so the tears dropped down a little, so it was a great experience."
After months of preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine and meeting with teams, McKinney's dream of playing professional football came true. Now entering his third season with the Texans, McKinney recalls that offseason as one of the toughest.
"It was a long process coming straight out of college, a bowl game, then just training the whole time and then coming straight to OTAs for rookie minicamp," McKinney said. "Trying to train to be in shape, to stay in shape, then plus visiting all the different teams and trying to manage your time, it was a long, hard process."
Fast forward two years later and McKinney is coming off his best season yet. After starting all 16 regular season games as well as both postseason contests, McKinney set single season career highs in tackles (129), quarterback hits (11), sacks (5.0), tackles for loss (8), passes defensed (2) and forced fumbles (1).
McKinney leaned on the support of veteran players such as Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus to help him make the transition from college to the NFL. He also credits Mike Vrabel, his linebackers coach now the Texans defensive coordinator, for putting him in position to make plays.
"First of all, he was pretty hard on me," McKinney said. "I remember him coming to Mississippi State to work me out and he was really hard on me. When I first came in, he was still hard on me every day, just really pushed me, and it made me the player I am now, playing in the NFL. It will be fun playing with him as a defensive coordinator."
McKinney led the Texans and finished 11th in the NFL with his single-season career-high 129 tackles. He also recorded a career-high 5.0 sacks, making him the only player in the NFL in 2016 with at least 100 tackles and 5.0 sacks in a season.
ILB Benardrick McKinney's career as a Texan and Mississippi State Bulldog is profiled here in pictures.