Takkarist McKinley goes 26th overall to Atlanta

Takkarist McKinley was drafted 26th overall by the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova, Press-Telegram/ Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Takkarist McKinley fulfilled his promise.

The former UCLA defensive end carried a framed photograph of his late grandmother Myrtle Collins with him on stage at the NFL Draft in Philadelphia on Thursday night after the Atlanta Falcons traded up to take him 26th overall.

McKinley, known for the undying motor and electric energy that led him to a team-high 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last year, couldn’t contain his emotions moments after hearing his name called.

“This is who I’m doing it for,” McKinley exclaimed on NFL Network while holding the photo of Collins, who passed away in 2011. “I made a promise to her and I stuck to it. I told her before she passed away that I was going to live my dream. I was going to go D-I, I was going to get out of Richmond, I was going to get out of Oakland, I was going to go to the NFL. Thirty seconds later, she passed away.

“This means (expletive) everything,” he continued on the live broadcast. Realizing his mistake, McKinley added “fine me later.”

With a deep breath, still clutching the photo of Collins, McKinley collected his emotions and finished: “We did it. I love you, Grandma. It’s only the beginning.”

McKinley is UCLA’s fourth first-round draft pick in the past five years.

More on McKinley’s big night

His teammates and coaches at UCLA posted their congratulations on Twitter:

Continue reading “Takkarist McKinley goes 26th overall to Atlanta” »

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UCLA spring football day 14: The penultimate practice

Freshman quarterback Austin Burton is one of four early enrollees with UCLA who are getting a head start on their college careers this spring. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

If you didn’t know any better, it would be hard to tab Jaelan Phillips as a kid who’s supposed to be in high school right now. On the football field, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound early enrollee blends right in among one of the deepest defensive line groups coach Angus McClure has ever had at the position. He answers media questions like a seasoned vet with good posture and direct eye contact. The one tell is his hair.

Phillips, who rose to high-school stardom with his black curls bursting from underneath his helmet, cut his signature locks before spring practice. He said he didn’t have time to style it anymore and the freshman, still conscious of the impression he was making on campus, didn’t want to look bad in class.

Scared that he would lose the power that made him the best recruit in the country, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings, Phillips was relieved when he didn’t lose a step when UCLA started spring practice. His coaches feel the same way.

“He’s an excellent player,” McClure said. “I’m expecting him to compete every day. He’s really picked up our system.”

More on Phillips’ transition to college, along with UCLA’s three other early enrollees Darnay Holmes, Austin Burton and Jimmy Jaggers.

Video interviews:

Here are notes/observations for the day: Continue reading “UCLA spring football day 14: The penultimate practice” »

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Jaelan Phillips, Darnay Holmes after practice April 27

Defensive end Jaelan Phillips talks about how the depth at defensive line makes him better, whether he’s eyeing Takkarist McKinley‘s open position and why he had to cut his hair.

Defensive back Darnay Holmes talks about adopting the right mindset for college, who has taken him under his wing and what advice defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin has given him.

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