Ex-1st Round Defender Reveals Best Thing to Happen Before Joining Rams

Takkarist McKinley

Getty Takkarist McKinley during the 2020 season with the Falcons.

A 6-foot-2, 250-pound presence came walking inside the Los Angeles Rams locker room on Thursday, September 22 with a smile…and honesty…in tow.

Takkarist McKinley is now on his fourth NFL stop — four destinations since being taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. And his last live appearance saw him leave with a ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 15 of the 2021 season.

Ten months has since passed following the periods of surgery, rehab and awaiting a chance to continue his NFL career. Now, McKinley isn’t just heading to the “Rams House,” but he’s reuniting with the man who helped decide to cut him from the Atlanta Falcons in Raheem Morris. Plus the Rams marks an L.A. homecoming for the edge rusher who became a collegiate star at nearby Westwood with UCLA.

McKinley walked in gleaming while standing in front of his new locker. But he also shared his honesty in his first interview with the L.A. media since his Bruin days…which includes what he believed was the best thing to happen to him before his return to L.A.

What ‘The Best Thing to Happen’ to McKinley Was

Most NFL players, athletes in general, dread the process of thinking about a torn Achilles. All the hours, agony and wonder if they’ll ever be the same mount inside the brain cells.

Surprisingly, “Takk” thinks differently.

“I’ll be honest, I had to grow up,” McKinley told reporters. “In my younger days, I don’t think I took a lot of things seriously whether if it was nutrition or whatever it may be.”

And that’s when McKinley began to make this important investment: On himself.

“As you get older in this league, you realize that you’re body is your money,” McKinley said. “Your body is your way to provide. I had to learn the hard way and sometimes, you had to go through some things to learn. And now, I’m on a meal plan and I make sure I take my vitamins. I just do all the little things that I was supposed to do.”

Most telling, he gives suffering that injury in that 16-14 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders this title:

“Honestly, it [the Achilles injury] was the best thing to happen to me as crazy as it may sound,” McKinley said.

‘Takk’s’ Road Back

McKinley is still trying to get acclimated with his new L.A. digs — from knowing how to get to the Rams’ facility to teaming up with Aaron Donald and company on defense. But it’s been a long trek to get back into a groove of running through defensive line drills.

“I believe I’m 10 months when I had surgery. Today was my first day putting on shoulder pads on since I tore my Achilles,” McKinley said. “So just getting the feel of things again, like the weight of my helmet and the weight of the shoulder pads, just trying to get comfortable with it, it’s different from wearing no gear. Just being able to get back out there was a great feeling.”

McKinley won’t need to start out on the practice squad either, as he’ll be among the active 53 options for the Rams. Does this mean he’ll make his return against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, September 25?

“I’ll leave that up to the coaches,” McKinley said. “I just feel like: Stay ready so you ain’t got to be ready. If my name is called and they need me, I’m here. I’ll play hard, play relentless and give it my all every play.”

But for now, McKinley has arrived with an honest reflection of his trek to return to the field…and this time in the city where he became a defensive star.

“It feels great to be on the field again. It’s been a hell of a journey just to get to this point. And just to be able to be back in an NFL locker room, especially the L.A. Rams who just won a Super Bowl, we have a team that’s built together and I’m here to help just whatever I can. I’m very appreciative and it was a great first day.”

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