Takk McKinley is best known for carrying a large framed photo of his grandmother, Myrtle Collins, on stage with him after being selected No. 26 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL draft. His passionate speech about his grandma, who raised him, included an F-bomb. He created a sensation when he said the NFL could “Fine me later, man,” about his swearing.
McKinley could be the player the Falcons need to take the pass rush to the next level in 2017. But we’re more excited to welcome McKinley into the NFL because of his big personality.
Here are five things you need to know about McKinley that may make the rookie one of your favorite players on and off the field.
1. He’s a hell of a dancer.
When McKinley is excited, the world is going to know it. He took to Instagram to share his joy over seeing that NFL money hit his bank account.
To see my family struggle everyday growing up and now I can help change that..YES I'M HAPPY ! Don't worry I'll be this happy getting sacks pic.twitter.com/LckhYSEkQ8— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) June 1, 2017
But there’s a good reason for McKinley to be that excited.
2. McKinley overslept on a recruiting visit to Cal.
He did it because it was the first time he had slept in a bed for months. To say that McKinley’s upbringing was rough is an understatement. His mother abandoned him when he was five years old, and his father was never in the picture.
His grandmother kept a roof over their heads and paid the bills by collecting bottles and cans to recycle. But home was crowded with family members, and McKinley slept on couches and floors for much of his childhood.
He also sacrificed plenty of time on the field and with friends as a child to help take care of his grandmother.
“He kind of gave it up to help me take care of her,” said Peggy Wiggins, McKinley’s aunt, via the Los Angeles Times. “I promised him that God was going to bless him for sticking in there with me to help take care of her.”
McKinley committed to Cal, but he didn’t qualify academically. He started talking about giving up football, and he was afraid he wouldn’t fulfill the promise he made to his grandmother.
“I was talking about quitting football and I started applying to McDonald’s and Taco Bell,” McKinley said. “I was kind of just over it because I was like, man, I failed her.”
A UCLA assistant coach was the one who realized there was an error on McKinley’s transcript that would have changed his eligibility, and the coach went to great lengths to get it corrected.
So when you see him celebrating his NFL contract, that enthusiasm is a little sweeter knowing where McKinley came from.
3. He has a giant gorilla tattoo on his shoulder.
4. He’s passionate about all of his interests.
McKinley goes all in on every single thing he loves. He’s not lukewarm about anything.
He loves his hometown Warriors, and he celebrated Golden State’s NBA Finals win in true McKinley style.
We are the champions!!! The bay lit asf pic.twitter.com/hxNfCyPpkG— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) June 13, 2017
He supports every sport at his alma mater wholeheartedly, including the women’s softball team. This time, he had a little help from his very good dog, Codeine.
We didn’t see this one coming. McKinley is a big fan of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic soundtrack.
If you ever need help shedding a tear.. Just listen to this song pic.twitter.com/SVi31FT6s6— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) May 15, 2017
And McKinley has his eye on some older ladies. He’s not ashamed to let everyone know.
Them older flight attendants bruh yahh sleeping on them fr fr— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) April 6, 2017
But he’s especially passionate about one food item.
5. He freaking loves ramen noodles.
Like he really, really loves them.
Back on my ramen noodle diet— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) June 13, 2016
What flavor does McKinley prefer? It’s not an easy decision.
chicken, shrimp and beef couldn't choose one lol— Takkarist McKinley (@Takk) June 14, 2016
And then he had seconds.
He even got a congratulatory tweet from Maruchan after he was drafted.
Congrats on building on the promises you made to your Grandma! Now— Maruchan (@Maruchan_Inc) April 28, 2017
grab a bowl of @Maruchan_Inc ramen and get to the quarterback!
Maybe Maruchan really should come through with a ramen endorsement for McKinley.
McKinley is just as passionate about football as the rest of his interests. McKinley had 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and six pass breakups in his final season at UCLA, and he did that while playing through a torn labrum.
That labrum required surgery, and McKinley wasn’t able to participate in rookie minicamp because of it. He’s eager to get on the field with his teammates.
“I like to compete. I like football, and I don’t like to be on the sideline just watching,” McKinley said. “I like to be out there with my brothers, helping make plays and stuff like that. So I understand it’s a process. I’ve got to get the shoulder right, and once it’s right, I’m going to help the Atlanta Falcons — do what I can to get wins.”
But when he does get on the field, he should elevate the Falcons’ pass rush. McKinley has the relentless attitude on the field that Dan Quinn covets on defense. His play should be as entertaining as his personality.