Welcome to The Khalil Mack Show
Ohio State oblivious to Mack’s performance after game
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COLUMBUS, OHIO - Khalil Mack proved Saturday that he's not just one of the best players in the Mid-American Conference; he's one of the best in the nation. His play against No. 2 ranked Ohio State earned so much recognition that he was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States at one point during the game.
Take a moment to think about that: A University at Buffalo football player was the most talked-about topic in the country at one point Saturday. That's a big deal.
The American public got the memo, but did Ohio State?
If you visited the Buckeyes' post-game press conference, you'd swear they weren't watching when Mack went off for eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception return for a touchdown and one heck of a fully extended, reaching-for-the-pylon dive into the end zone.
The Bulls lost, 40-20, but he was the best player on the field.
"They've got a kid that kicked our tails," said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer after the game. "That outside linebacker had a couple of sacks, pressures. I know he beat guys that I expect to play very well on our offensive line."
Yes, coach, he did kick your tails. Mack sped around the field to the point that it seemed he was around the ball every play.
"The guy that played - was it 46? - I just know where he played," Meyer said. "I can see him standing out there, a really, really good player."
Meyer didn't know Khalil Mack's name.
Fifty minutes later, Ohio State standout quarterback Braxton Miller, whom Mack hounded, addressed the media. No one asked about Mack - though believe me, I tried, only to be interrupted four times and shunned by Ohio State PR after the press conference - and Miller only referenced him once.
"It was a good play by 46," Miller said of Mack's interception return for a touchdown.
Wait, what? Miller didn't know his name either?
I know it seems hard to fathom because Miller is a Heisman candidate and all, but Mack is rated as a better pro prospect. Mack put on a show. He was the most talked about person in America!
I get it: It's UB. The Bulls play in the MAC, which the Buckeyes probably consider the FCS.
But this isn't about the school; it's about Khalil Mack. UB has never had an athlete like him. There is something special about him - not just his athletic ability. I've been covering the team for three years now, have traveled to just about every game and have interviewed him more times than I can count. That's why I have full confidence in saying he is special.
That won't change if he has some injury or his career doesn't pan out in the NFL. It goes beyond the football field.
I wrote a feature on Mack for our football preview, and here's one thing he said that jumped out to me: "I really don't care about football as much as I want to grow as a person."
While we watched the press swarm Ohio State's players after the game, Spectrum senior sports editor Jon Gagnon and I chatted about how annoying it must be to have cameras and recorders frequently in your face. Then we talked about how often that has happened to Mack this year, and how gracefully, patiently and humbly he has handled the attention.
"He just sees his life as a total blessing," Gagnon said.
I couldn't have put it any better. For a fuller picture of Mack's attitude, look at what he had to say after the game.
"It was great experience to go out there and play against a team that is very disciplined," he said. "They're well coached and I'm glad to have the experience, and it's unfortunate that we lost but we've got to keep fighting.
"I still have to keep working. I don't feel any type of way about the performance I had, but we have to keep getting better. It's about the team and we want to win."
He's also one heck of a football player. So, UB, let's appreciate him while we can.
To America: welcome to The Khalil Mack Show.
And to Ohio State: I know you've got a really solid squad, and I know you're a big-time school. But next time you go up against one of the country's best players, at least learn his name.
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