ALAMEDA -– Raiders brass first met Khalil Mack at the NFL scouting combine. The outside linebacker did not make a good first impression.
Mack was asked about his first football memory. The former University of Buffalo standout searched the memory bank and harkened back to 12 years of age, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat up on “some other team” in the Super Bowl.
Uh…Khalil? That was the Raiders.
Reggie McKenzie’s response: “Son, you’re in the wrong room.” There was a pause, and then the room erupted with laughter.
“I didn’t think it was going to go well after that,” Mack said with a smile during Friday’s introductory press conference. “…It really did.”
Mack recovered nicely and thought he made a real connection. The conversation went well, as did a private conversation at his March 4 pro day. It solidified a lofty stoop on the Raiders’ draft board, and verified Mack was as good a guy as references said he was.
The background checks came back with no issue. The game tape, which showed dynamic athleticism and steady improvement, showed what he could do in college and his NFL potential.
Still, when Mack toured the country on official visits to team facilities, the Raiders never called. Mack wondered if maybe the meetings didn’t go as well as he thought.
“That’s what I (thought),” Mack said, again making light of the topic. “That goes to show how this process is. All I know is that I’m really glad to be here.”
It wasn’t a slight. McKenzie knew everything he needed to know. He knew that Mack was his guy.
[RELATED: Raiders feel fortunate Mack fell to No. 5]
“I went out for his pro day. We talked for a little bit, and I talked to his agent a whole lot,” McKenzie said. “I really liked him, but I never show my cards.”
Even if Mack didn’t know he wouldn’t slide past the Raiders at No. 5 overall, the Raiders would never allow that to happen. When Mack was on the board, the decision was a quick one.
“Yesterday was a great day,” McKenzie said. “We felt like we got a great player to add to this football family and to introduce to Raider Nation. We’re fortunate to have a player of Khalil’s caliber here in Oakland.”