After just three seasons in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, 25-year-old Khalil Mack has already turned into one of the league’s best pass rushers. His relentless pursuit of opposing quarterbacks is a big reason for the Raiders’ resurgence in the last two years.
As an 11-year-old growing up in Fort Pierce, Florida, Mack got his first taste of disrespect that still sticks with him to this very day. The coach of his youth football team used the word “soft” to describe a young Mack out on the field.
The future Oakland pass rusher did not appreciate his coach using this particular word that is often used to describe the insides of a teddy bear.
“I took it to heart. I don’t like that word.”
Khalil Mack via Sports Illustrated
What his coach said to him on that day more than a decade ago is just one of the many things the Raiders’ defensive end uses for motivation each time he steps out onto an NFL field.
From being rated as a two-star recruit in high-school, to only getting one scholarship offer from an FBS school, to being regarded as “just another guy” in college at Buffalo, to being drafted to an NFL team that had missed the playoffs for 11 straight seasons, Mack has had plenty to fuel his motivational fire during his football career.
Despite being a monster out on the field, he is known as a quiet and humble person once he takes off the pads. Mack does not even enjoy it when his peers talk about how bright his future currently looks and instead he takes a more day-by-day approach to life.
His 30 career sacks are the most by an Oakland player in their first three NFL seasons since defensive lineman Bill Pickel had 31 from 1983 to 1985. Yet, Mack “doesn’t feel like he’s done anything yet,” according to his father during an interview with The Mercury News in September, 2016.
Mack certainly has received more praise as an NFL player than he did during college and high school, but there is no reason to think that the defensive end will not continue to ignore the support until he becomes the best player he can possibly be. For the Raiders, it has to be refreshing to know that the best player on their defense will not stop working until he becomes one of the greatest ever to play the game.
But in reality, Mack has a chance to go down as one of the best pass rushers to ever play in an Oakland uniform and be spoken about in the same sentences as Raider greats like Howie Long, Charles Woodson, Willie Brown, Jack Tatum, Ted Hendricks, and Mike Haynes.
But do not tell him that. To Mack, his abilities are barely worth a comparison to a punter’s, let alone those of a Hall of Famer.