McKenzie Opening Statement: “As I told you guys last night, it was a great day, yesterday. We felt like we got a great player to add to this football family here at the Raider Nation. We feel very fortunate to have a player of Khalil’s caliber, and we welcome him to this Raider football family. I ask you guys to welcome him also. I would like to also point out that Mr. and Mrs. Mack [Sandy and Yolanda] are here in the audience tonight. So please say hello and congratulate them also.”
Q: I was reading that you didn’t play football until your junior year of high school. What was the hold up there?
Mack: “The hold-up just happened to play in my favor. I didn’t play because I had an injury my sophomore year. But even then, I was a basketball guy. I didn’t play until my junior year. In the spring, my coach came into my class room, picked me out of class and I have been playing football ever since.”
Q: At what point was the NFL in your thought process?
Mack: “Ever since I started playing Pop Warner football. You see guys like Donovan McNabb, and I wore No. 5. when I played for the Eagles in Fort Pierce, Fla. It was a dream then just thinking that I could possibly play football and make it career, and now I am here now talking to you all.”
Q: The first time you set foot in Buffalo after growing up in Fort Pierce, Fla., I would imagine Fort Pierce and Buffalo could not be more different. What was that whole process like?
Mack: “No [they’re not the same]. You get a little homesick. Being up in Buffalo, I believe it was October and it was like 50 degrees and I saw people walking around in shorts and tank-tops and I was confused. It just so happened that I had on the thickest jacket that I ever could have and everybody was looking at me like I was crazy. It was a transition, but I got used to it. After a while, I was walking around in a tank-top and shorts in 50-degree weather. Now, I’m on the West Coast, so it should be fun.”
Q: Did you say yesterday that you had never been to the Bay Area?
Mack: “I’ve never been.”
Q: Have you been to California?
Mack: “Not California at all, never been to California.”
Q: I’m going to start moving East … Las Vegas, Texas.
Mack: “Texas, but that was a visit.”
Q: Does that make you anxious in anyway? Are you excited?
Mack: “No doubt, I’m excited. I know it’s different, and I’m looking forward to being here.”
Q: How much interaction have you had so far with Jason Tarver? What sort of impressions do you have so far with your defensive coordinator?
Mack: “He was one of the first people I shook hands with outside. He seems energetic and ready for me to be a part of this defense, and I’m ready to be a part of the defense as well.”
Q: Did you meet with him and interview with him before the draft process?
Mack: “Even then, we probably had an interview at the combine or something like that, not too much talking. Even then, I’m excited to see what’s going to take place.”
Q: There are a couple of pretty good quarterbacks in this division, have you look at that and thought that you’re going to be playing against Peyton Manning twice, Philip Rivers twice? You have some pretty big targets.
Mack: “No doubt, no doubt. I can’t wait. I want to go out there and play against some of the best. In order to get to that point, I still have to put in a lot of work and I am ready to do that.”
Q: Have you met any of your teammates yet, and what has your experience been like since you arrived here today?
Mack: “I haven’t met anyone yet. I got a few text messages here and there, but everyone has been nothing but the best as far as letting me know what’s going on and just interacting with me and my family and showing nothing but love to us. It’s been fun. It’s been fun.”
Q: You’ve been noted as a versatile player, but where do you think you have the most room for improvement?
Mack: “That’s the thing, coming to the professional level, I know guys are going to be just as talented, if not more talented than I am. There are certain things that you have to do as a football player to make sure that you play fundamentally sound and use the right technique and play with your hands and do it every day and do it every time you go on the field and be consistent. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing. I’m looking forward to being more consistent as a football player and getting better. Working with some of the veteran guys in the NFL, and I’m excited.”
Q: Yesterday you were asked if you believed you were the best defender in this draft and you said yes. What gives you that confidence?
Mack: “Just because you know that deep down you are a competitor. You don’t want to lose, you want to be the best. That’s me and that’s the way I’ve always thought, partly because of my father. He’s a prideful, competitive guy. He doesn’t like to lose and I don’t like to lose, so you rarely will see me get beat up in any sense of the game as far as football because I don’t like to lose. If I get beat once, you won’t beat me again.”
Q: How would you describe this whole pre-draft process? Do you try to figure out where you are going to go? Do you guess?
Mack: “That’s the thing – I kept an open mind. I felt like certain meetings went well and certain meetings went better than others. Even then, you can’t really call it. It’s kind of like you have to keep it mellow and just figure out what’s going to happen after it’s done. Now that I’m here, I’m excited. I’m ready to go.”
Q: When you got picked, did you think back to when you met with Reggie?
Mack: “Yeah, that was at the combine. Our combine meeting was very funny. (laughing) It just so happens that I am here. I am excited.”
Q: Where do you feel like you grew the most during your senior season? Your draft stock obviously grew very high, but where do you feel like you grew the most in that final year?
Mack: “I knew coming into my senior year that I wanted to dominate just because of the fact that I was a fifth-year senior in Buffalo. I knew that I had to go out and dominate every game and show that I could play at a high level, regardless of the SEC guys and Big 10 and Big 12 conference guys. I knew that I had to go out and show my dominance as a man. Now I am talking to you. I feel like I have done that and that’s over. But I have to go out and do it again.”
Q: You set an NCAA record for forced fumbles. Is that something that you attempt to do?
Mack: “It’s all about being consistent and using preparation and going out in practice. [Buffalo defensive coordinator] Lou Tepper, we used to practice stripping the ball every day. Even my coach before him, we would go out and we would practice taking the ball away. We would practice stripping the ball from the quarterbacks. That’s the first I think about as a football player. If I see the ball, you can hit the guy as hard as you want, but if the ball doesn’t come out, it’s not going to affect the game. I wanted to affect the game in any way I could, so I tried to get the ball any chance I got.”
Q: Coach Allen talked yesterday about what an impact he expects you to have right away. Reggie just mentioned at this press conference that you were ‘great’ and he hasn’t thrown that word around too many times. What do you expect from yourself when they expect so much of you?
Mack: “That’s the thing, you can say what everyone else expects but I’m a football player. I’m going to go out and play football to the best of my ability. When I do that, I feel that I can be impactful. Whether that’s making tackles, making tackles for losses, disrupting the passer, I want to be effective. That’s the way that I play.”
Q: There’s a lot of talk about the first meeting you had with Reggie at the combine where you said your first memory of football was watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat up on a certain team in the Super Bowl. How did that conversation go? Also, have you chosen a number yet?
Mack: “From that aspect, I didn’t think it would go well because I told him they got beat up by Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. I was like ‘woah, I’m in the wrong room’. And we started laughing. That speaks for what type of people they are in this building. Great people, some of the best. I’m glad to be a part of this great organization. As far as the number goes, I feel like I’m leaning towards 52, if that’s not too soon.”
Q: I know your mother convinced you to stay back for your senior year. Obviously your stock rose and now you’re a first rounder. Have there been any ‘I told you so’ moments?
Mack: “She’s a very humble and wise person. I’m glad that I took that and ran with it.”
Q: A lot has been made about you wearing the number 46 because that was your grade coming out of high school. Do you feel that now you play with a chip on your shoulder?
Mack: “No doubt. I’m a competitive guy, but just knowing that that 46 hurt at the time. Being a freshman, coming into my redshirt freshman year, we had guys that cared about those stats and those different things. I just wanted to go out and prove that I could be effective in any way of the game. That 46 overall was just a for me to keep that number at the time, 46. I just go out and play football in any way I can. That’s the way that I think.”
McKenzie: “You’re talking about as far as playing, the type of players, the attitude with playing with a chip on your shoulder. When you watch Khalil play, he plays the game like it’s supposed to be played. He plays hard, he plays physical, and he goes from snap to whistle. You can call it a chip on your shoulder, or you can just call it being a football player. That’s the kind of football player we want to bring in to our team and our locker room. We want to surround the
Q: Do you see Khalil playing special teams this year or would you prefer that he focus on linebacker?
McKenzie: “First, I’m going to let the coaches put them wherever they want to. But, first we will focus on his play on defense. I’m sure he’s going to play on a couple special teams and help that way. Starters do play special teams. We want our special teams to be good also. We want good players on our special teams.”
Q: I heard your college coach saying today that you’re a pretty good guitar player and singer. I’m wondering what genre you prefer and when will we get to hear that?
Mack: “I’m all over the place when it comes to genres. I play a little Jason Mraz here and there, and a little Hotel California. Those are about the only two songs I know. You might hear a song, you might not. Don’t depend on me being good because I might surprise you. I try.”
Q: After you had the meeting at the combine where you made a connection, were you surprised when they didn’t bring you out?
Mack: “That’s what I said. It just shows you how this process is. I’m glad to be here.”
Q: Reggie, was that just a case of knowing everything you needed to know?
McKenzie: “I went out there for the Pro Day and talked to a lot of people. I talked to Khalil for a little bit afterwards, his agent was there and I talked to his agent a whole lot. I never show my cards, so to speak.”
Q: You mentioned that you wanted number 52, was that just a number you liked or is there something more behind it?
Mack: “There’s a little something more behind it."
McKenzie: “That means he wasn’t going to tell you. You guys are something else.”