By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – In 2011, Mississippi State signed a long, lanky high school quarterback named Benardrick McKinney from Tunica who had only one four-year scholarship offer.
Two years later, that sleeper prospect had blossomed into one of the best young linebacker prospects in the Southeastern Conference earning Freshman All-SEC honors after his rookie campaign.
McKinney felt overlooked during the recruiting process and arrived at MSU with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. He pushed his weight up to 235 pounds and was second among major-college freshmen in 2012 with 102 tackles.
“I’m automatically a hard worker but that still motivated me a lot,” McKinney said. “I want to come out and impress all those coaches and a lot of people. I just put it in my head that I was going to try to be the best player.”
McKinney may have flown under the radar last fall but that has not been the case this year. With 18 starts under his belt, offenses have had to account for him in their scouting reports and have used different approaches for blocking him.
Still, McKinney is second on the team with 49 tackles. He has three stops for loss, one sack and a fumble recovery so far.
“I’m sure they have schemed a lot of plays against me with their offensive linemen,” McKinney said. “I’m not as free as much as I was last year but our defensive linemen have done a great job to help me make bigger plays.”
McKinney plays some mind games of his own.
The former Rosa Fort quarterback tries his best to intimidate and confuse opposing offenses before the ball is snapped.
“Being a high school quarterback has helped me get into the quarterback’s head,” McKinney said. “Before the play, I like to talk to the running back and quarterback and try to get in their heads and disguise a lot.”
McKinney was the first Rosa Fort football player to receive a SEC offer since his high school coach McKinley Scott played receiver for the Bulldogs from 2002-04.
Another Lions player announced his intentions to follow in their footsteps to Starkville on Monday as safety Brandon Bryant flipped his commitment from Southern Miss to MSU.
“It’s a great honor to put Tunica on the map,” McKinney said. “I know (Bryant) is a great player. He even played a little when I was still in high school.”