Takkarist McKinley knows what it is like to be overlooked.
Before he became a projected first-round NFL Draft pick, the former no-star recruit had to escape violence in Richmond, California and play a year at a community college before enrolling at the University of California, Los Angeles to play defensive end.
McKinley shared a room with former Temple linebacker and defensive lineman Haason Reddick while they trained together in Phoenix from January up until the NFL Scouting Combine from Feb. 28 to March 6. McKinley and Reddick were also in the same position group at the combine in Indianapolis. He called Reddick “probably the most athletic person at the combine” and said it was “inspiring” to work out with the former walk-on.
Now Reddick is taking his work ethic to the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals selected him with the 13th overall pick on Thursday, making Reddick Temple’s fourth first-round pick in program history. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians coached at Temple from 1983-88.
“He knows the game, and he’s just somebody who just comes and works,” McKinley said on Wednesday. “He don’t make no excuses. That Temple grind, man, that Temple toughness. That’s him.”
In 2016, Reddick led the Football Bowl Subdivision and tied a Temple single-season record with 22.5 tackles for loss. He earned first-team American Athletic Conference honors and graduates as the conference’s all-time tackles for loss leader.
He walked onto the Owls’ roster in Fall 2012 as a defensive back and saw time mostly on special teams in 2013. Reddick’s mother took out a loan for him to have a meal plan.
He emerged in 2015, when he earned a starting spot at defensive end. Reddick recorded 45 tackles, 12.5 of which for loss, to help the Owls have their first 10-win season since 1979.
Reddick, who thought he was going to be a “regular college student” when he enrolled, received a key to his native city of Camden, New Jersey on Monday. Once he signs a contract, he’ll have the ability to buy his mother a house.
In the week leading up to Temple’s matchup with Penn State in September, Reddick said he grades himself after every game. He gave himself a “between a C or D” after he had one tackle in the Owls’ win against Stony Brook University on Sept. 10.
Reddick averaged 5.2 tackles per game in the remaining 12 contests. He had two sacks and made 11 tackles, five of which for loss, in a nationally televised game against Memphis on Oct. 6. People took notice.
“He has played like one of the best outside linebacker prospects in this year’s senior class,” CBS Sports writer Dane Bulger wrote on Oct. 25.
“It was a crazy game for me,” Reddick said on Wednesday. “Probably the best game of my college career.”
Reddick’s game against Memphis wasn’t the first time he had an opportunity to showcase his skills on the national stage. Temple and the University of Notre Dame each entered their matchup on Oct. 31, 2015 undefeated and ranked, drawing ESPN’s College GameDay to Philadelphia. Reddick made 1.5 tackles for loss in the game. Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer called him an “absolute stud.”
Reddick’s draft stock rose from a projected third-to-fifth-round pick to a consensus first rounder after his Senior Bowl and combine performances. Now he wants to make an impact at the professional level.
“Now that they see my worth, they see what I can do, it’s only more to prove now,” Reddick said on Wednesday. “Now, I have to continue to prove, like, ‘OK, they said you can do this, we see you can do this.’ But now I gotta keep showing it, keep proving it, keep proving over and over and it’s something that I look forward to.”
“I feel like I was under the radar, and I think now a lot of people might feel like this is a feel-good story,” he added. “They still truly don’t understand the hard work that I put in to get here and really what type of player I am but that’ll all change soon.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.