A friend of mine who coaches high school basketball used to tell me how often he witnessed hard-working teams beat their more talented counterparts. It’s not a new theory, to be sure, but when I recalled the message earlier today, it sparked a related thought: What happens when high-end talent works to its fullest potential?
I’m not sure I know the answer right off the back, but I have an idea. And I think we’ll get to see exactly that when Khalil Mack takes to Soldier Field for his home debut with the Bears later tonight.
At The MMQB (Sports Illustrated), Kayln Kahler covers the bases on Mack’s learning curve upon arrival, grabbing the perspective of (1) Mack’s position coach Brandon Staley, (2) first-unit teammate safety Eddie Jackson, and (3) fellow outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. It is, without a doubt, your must-read of the day (and that goes double, given that it’s about Mack, and triple because it’s game day).
I won’t spoil too much of the article – mostly because I just want you to read through it yourself – but I can give you a taste of Mack’s accelerated learning program. According to Kahler, Mack began consuming as much as he could *as soon as* he physically get his hands on the Bears’ defensive playbook. And maybe that’s what any new player would do (or at least pretend to do), but Mack then took it to another level. From there, he would meet with his position coach around 6 a.m., before tacking on some post-practice study sessions from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. That’s a special level of commitment that tends to yield special results for the player, and hopefully, his team. Because remember: while being blessed with incredible athleticism will take you far, it’s the work you put into something that will decide your level of greatness. In Mack’s case, the newest Bears standout has taken it to another level.
It’s been quite the ride for Mack, who has had a LOT of learning to do in a short amount of time. But it’s that type of effort that could lead to more playing time as soon as tonight. For an extended look at Mack’s behind-the-scenes work, you’ll definitely want to give this a read.