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McKinnon's draft stock on the rise
NFL Combine Football Heal WEB
Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Sunday. - photo by Associated Press

    Former Georgia Southern Eagle Jerick McKinnon wasn’t just the strongest running back at the NFL combine on Sunday. He was the strongest skill player, and it wasn’t even close.
    McKinnon benched 225 pounds 32 times — 34 unofficially, as two were docked due to technique — but it was at least six more than any other running back, quarterback or wide receiver, who all worked out on Sunday.
    The only person who wasn't surprised was McKinnon.
    “Those numbers were pretty consistent with what I was putting up at school when I was on the team,” McKinnon said over the phone on Monday.
    Needless to say, the other top running backs in the nation were impressed.
    “They were really shocked,” McKinnon said. “There were some guys I worked with — Silas Redd from USC and (former Georgia running back) Isaiah Crowell — who were kind of hyping me up a little bit. They were just like, ‘We’ll see.’ Then I went and got 32, officially.”
    To put it into perspective, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, a 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive tackle and a projected top-5 pick of the draft, benched 225 pounds only 21 times.
    McKinnon’s best during private workouts was 36.
    “I wanted to get something like that at the combine, but I’ll take 32,” he said.
    Strength wasn’t the only workout at which McKinnon shined. His 40-yard dash was second fastest of all 30 running backs — 4.41 seconds officially, though his fastest was 4.35 -— and he was also second best in vertical jump (40.5 inches) and broad jump (132 inches).
    He had the third-best three-cone drill time (6.83 seconds) and  fourth-best short shuttle (4.12 seconds).
    McKinnon is back in Georgia after flying home from Indianapolis immediately after the combine, but he’s not done working out yet.
    He’ll be back in Statesboro in March for GSU’s pro day.
    Still in Indianapolis is former Eagle Lavelle Westbrooks, who will work out with the defensive backs today. The two were on the same hallway in Indianapolis.
    “We sat in the hotel room and talked about what we wanted to accomplish. He was amped up for Tuesday,” McKinnon said.
    Another big part of the NFL evaluation process is also behind McKinnon. The process of meeting with teams and coaches for the first time.
    “They want to know who you grew up with, how you grew up, where you’re from, questions like that,” McKinnon said. “Really, they want to know how much you love the game of football. They try to find out where your head is. Then they want to know what you bring to the table and how you can help the organization.”
    The NFL Draft takes place on May 8-10.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.