On the weekend of the NFL Draft, a lot of football players hope they’ve done enough to make a team want to select them.
Jerick McKinnon did enough to make somebody have to draft him.
The former Georgia Southern Eagle was so physically impressive at the NFL Combine in February, it was impossible for anybody to pass on him for long. The Minnesota Vikings selected McKinnon on Friday in the third round — the 96th pick overall.
“It was just a lot of effort, really,” McKinnon said over the phone on Monday from Minnesota. “There are guys who are just talented and can do a lot of things other people can’t do, and then there are guys with some talent who work as hard as they can. If you’re talented and you put in a lot of effort, the sky’s the limit for you. You can accomplish the highest goals you make for yourself. Don’t hold back on effort and determination.”
McKinnon’s work ethic certainly showed at the combine. He benched 225 pounds 32 times — 34 unofficially, as two were docked because of technique — but it was at least six more than any other running back, quarterback or wide receiver. To put it into perspective, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, a 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive tackle and the first overall pick of the draft, benched 225 pounds only 21 times.
“(McKinnon) was, from an athletic standpoint, just too good of an athlete to pass up,” Vikings General Manager Rick Speilman said in a news conference after McKinnon was selected. “Just too good of a player. His running style speaks for itself when you watch the tape.”
That, combined with a 4.41-second 40-yard dash time, caught the Vikings’ eyes. They were sold when McKinnon worked out as a running back, punt returner, defensive back and caught passes at his Pro Day at GSU.
“He had maybe the most interesting workout I’ve ever seen in a spring,” Speilman said. “I’d say the NFL teams got their money’s worth.”
He laughed when asked about McKinnon’s skill set in drills for positions other than running back.
“Actually, he’s pretty good at the defensive back drills as well.”
Speilman then assured the media that McKinnon will be a running back, a likely backup for Vikings star Adrian Peterson.
McKinnon heard the news that he was a third-round pick from his Marietta home with plenty of family and friends in attendance. His reaction was a lot more subdued than everybody else’s.
“They were yelling, screaming and jumping up and down,” McKinnon said about the moment he got the call and his name came up on the television. “Me? I was just crying. I was soaking the moment in. It took a lot to get to that point. To get that phone call and finally know, ‘I’m getting drafted. I’m getting drafted in a good spot.’ It was overwhelming.”
McKinnon was the first GSU player selected, but when cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks was picked in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals, it was the first time two GSU players were drafted in the same season since Tracy Ham and Fred Stokes were drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987. They join two current Eagles in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox and Cleveland Browns linebacker Darius Eubanks.
“It’s a reflection of coaching, commitment, having good athletes, all of that,” McKinnon said about the recent success of GSU players in the NFL. “J.J. and Eubanks got in the door, and with me and Lavelle coming after them, it’s putting the program at a whole ’nother level, opening some eyes. Hopefully it’ll help (GSU) keep bringing them in.”
McKinnon said he packed warm for the fall, but he has a little bit of familiarity with that climate.
“I haven’t been in this part of the country since North Dakota State,” McKinnon said.