For the consideration of NFL teams,
My name is Benardrick McKninney and I am not your average inside linebacker.
As an ILB at the NFL level, I know that I will truly have to see the field. I will have to lead my defense by reading the offense. In situations where, in college, merely reacting may have been enough, I know that in the NFL there often won’t be that luxury. In the NFL, you have to sense what’s happening before it happens. This is where the quarterback has a built-in advantage over the defense. And this is where I have a built-in advantage over the quarterback. Why? Because, unlike pretty much every other linebacker on your draft board, I’m very comfortable under center.
In high school, I played quarterback. And not freshman year, or anything like that. I played quarterback as a junior and a senior. When I got to Mississippi State, and the coaches wanted me to transition to linebacker, I knew nothing about thinking from a defensive perspective. And so, to guide me, I used the only experience that I had at my disposal: my time at quarterback. That is the reference point from which I learned to play the linebacker position. Of course, making the transition was hard, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because while I am now built like a linebacker, move like a linebacker, and hit like a linebacker, there is a part of me that will always, instinctively, think and see the field like a quarterback.
Vision and intuition are not the only aspects of my game that have roots in my old position. Another quality that my beginning as a quarterback instilled in me is a grasp of the importance of a team leader — and the will to be one. More than anything else, being a leader is my greatest skill on the football field. Being vocal. Pushing guys to do their best. I’ve done it my whole life. It just comes naturally. My coaches at Mississippi State, Coach Mullen and Coach Collins, saw this in me. My older teammates, from Cameron Lawrence to Vick Ballard, saw this in me. They knew I could be a leader from the start, and they pushed me to be a better one. I didn’t let them down.
If you draft me, know that you are taking someone who truly hates to lose. This trait is how I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete. Growing up, playing with my friends, against other schools, I could always sense that I experienced the game at a different level from everyone else. I had this crazy craving for it — I just wanted it more. The other players would come to practice or come to the games, and — win or lose — they would be fine no matter what. But with me, if I lost, I couldn’t stand it. I just knew, at the most fundamental level, that losing was something I didn’t want to do.
My way of dealing with this mindset has always been to utilize it by playing football to the best of my ability — and by seeking out the strongest competition possible. In college, this meant facing the challenge of the nation’s toughest conference, the SEC. By my senior year, this meant helping Mississippi State to its first consensus #1 ranking in school history and a berth in the Orange Bowl. And now it means the NFL.
When I arrived in Starkville, I had never played the linebacker position before. Four years later, I left the school an All-American at the position. My best football is still ahead of me and I can’t wait to see where my game will be four years from now.