With the No. 26 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons moved up from No. 31 to select linebacker Takkarist McKinley out of UCLA. “Fine me later” McKinley shouted during his interview in response to showing heartfelt emotion on stage. Finally, the promise McKinley had made to his late grandmother 30 seconds prior to her taking her final breaths in 2011 came into fruition as he shared that special moment of walking onto the stage to shake the commissioner’s hand with a portrait of her by his side. McKinley was raised by his grandmother Myrtle Collins in Richmond, Calif. after his mother abandoned him at the age of five and father was never in the picture since his birth.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound McKinley committed to Cal after a stellar prep career from 2009-13, but oversleeping during a recruiting visit and academia issues pursuing later on, he went down the junior college route. At Contra Costa College, McKinley played one season before UCLA defensive lineman coach Angus McClure found out he wasn’t credited for a course which he completed. McKinley was eligible for transfer and joined the Bruins as a midseason transfer in 2014. At UCLA, where he had three years of eligibility, “Takk” played in 10 games sophomore year, starting in one (six tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks). The following year, he started in 12 games for the Bruins as a defensive end and was a pass rush specialist as he totaled 7.5 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. To complete his senior year, McKinley finished with first-team All-Pac-12 honors with 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and six pass breakups. Among his draft class, McKinley says he ‘has the best motor.’