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McKinley focusing on NFL draft

Cedric McKinley has as much faith in himself as his 6-6, 285-pound frame will allow. The calm, cool, collected defensive end faces the next major challenge of his football life with the same laid back, assured demeanor that led him to the Minnesota Golden Gophers two years ago.

“The chances are up to me,” he says of his prospects of hearing his name called in April’s NFL Draft. “It’s up to me to put in the effort and go to work with a good attitude.”

The Minnesota senior played in 11 games in 2009, starting nine of them. Fighting off double teams for much of the year, McKinley recorded 35 total tackles including 7.5 for loss and two sacks while forcing two fumbles and recovering three. Now, he hopes to extend his career by catching the attention of an NFL franchise.

“I’ve always dreamed about it,” he says. “My coaches always tell me about my potential. For me, I just love working. That’s my job. Get up, work out, run, do what I’m supposed to do and be on time.”

One of the most difficult parts of the process for McKinley has been the pre-draft ritual of selecting an agent.

Before he and his fellow Gopher seniors can participate in the University of Minnesota’s Pro Day in a few weeks, he must select an agent. After that, it’s back to working out.

That aspect is one with which McKinley feels very comfortable, despite his admission that there are aspects of his game he would like to improve.

“I think I need to improve my quick abilities, running to the ball more,” McKinley says. “I know in the league they’ll probably change my position because of my size. I’ll probably be a stand-up defensive end and outside linebacker. I need to work on coverage.”

McKinley is no stranger to change or uncertainty. After winning a state championship with Demopolis as a high school junior, McKinley relocated to Florida for his senior season. Then it was off to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two years where he played alongside eventual University of Alabama standout Terrence Cody. From there, McKinley had to figure out where to extend his career, ultimately going with the Golden Gophers. Now, his football life has reached its next crossroads.

Regardless of which way the draft process goes for McKinley, he says he is comfortable with what his playing career has been.

“I feel good,” McKinley said. “Ever since pee wee, junior high, Demopolis, Florida — went there and had success, went to junior college and won a championship, went to Minnesota and had two good years there.”

His confidence remains high as his sights are set squarely on his NFL dreams. Still, McKinley is also prepared should things not go his way.

“I’m planning on making it,” the communication studies major says. “If I don’t make it, I’m going to go back and get my degree.”