No one disrespects Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack anymore, but that wasn't always the case.
Mack is a lock to go in the first 10 picks Thursday, when the first round in the NFL draft will be held, and at least one national draft expert pegged him as the No. 1 overall pick.
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Even though the Buffalo Bulls rarely feel the glow of the national spotlight, the 6-foot-2½-inch, 251 pound Mack made the college football world sit up and take notice last season as he established NCAA career records with 75 tackles for loss and 16 forced fumbles.
But earlier in his career Mack was dissed by EA Sports in their NCAA Football video.
Mack was ratted a 46 (out of 100) overall, and he got a 37 rating for speed, even though his current 4.65 is well above average for all linebackers. The slight served as inspiration.
Mack said the ratings were "a slap in the face, man."
He then added: "Because I knew, deep down in my heart, I was better than a 46. And, it just so happened, I was already No. 46, and so I kept the number."
This year, Mack says he was rated "80-something," an improvement but probably a little low for a player who finished the season with 19 tackles for loss and 10½ sacks.
In the season opener against Ohio State, Mack felt the Buckeyes didn't do enough to account for him, and he responded with a performance that put him on the radar of every NFL team, if he wasn't there already.
"I feel it was, sort of, a little disrespect from a schematic approach," he said of the Buckeyes' game plan. "But, at the same time I wanted to make them pay for it."
He did. Mack responded with 2½ sacks and an interception, which he returned 45 yards for a touchdown.
"It helped with (setting) the stage," Mack said of the Ohio State game. "I feel like there were a lot of people watching that game. It helped me tremendously."
One of those people was the NFL Network's draft analyst Mike Mayock, although he didn't see it until later, when he watched a tape of the game. After a season's worth of similar performances, Mayock said Mack would be his top overall pick in Round 1.
"He's explosive off the edge, he's tough, he's twitchy, he's got a little edge about him," Mayock said. "(Mack) dominated Ohio State like nobody I've ever seen dominate them."
Mack appreciated the publicity that came with Mayock's proclamation of his draft status.
"Mike Mayock is the man," Mack said. "I want to prove him right."
Possessing a rare combination of explosion (40-inch vertical jump; 10-foot-8-inch broad jump), flexibility, speed, strength and power, Mack has the tools to become an impact pass rusher in the NFL and a sideline-to-sideline terror on running plays.
He also has integral traits that can't be measured, like a great work ethic and competitiveness. Even if he does go No. 1, Mack vows not to let up.
"I just want to keep proving myself," he said. "I want to be the best. My Dad always taught me to be the best at anything and everything that you do. I strive to be the best at anything I do -- whether it's raking the leaves growing up, or whether it was playing tic-tac-toe with my brothers, or kick the can.
"We did stupid things, but we wanted to be the best at it, and that's the reason I'm so competitive."
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