STARKVILLE (HailState.com) – Mississippi State first-team All-America linebacker Benardrick McKinney has decided to forgo his senior season and officially declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, the junior announced Friday.
“I have decided to enter the NFL Draft and look forward to the next chapter,” said McKinney. “I can't thank enough my coaches, teammates and the Bulldog fans for the memories we have created over the years. It's been a privilege to be a part of one of the best teams in school history. Mississippi State has developed me into the player I am today, and I will always be part of the Bulldog family.”
McKinney, a native of Tunica, Miss., is ranked the top inside linebacker prospect in this year's draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper. He will attend the NFL Scouting Combine next month in Indianapolis.
“We fully support Benardrick's decision and know he is ready for the next level,” said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. “He has been a tremendous leader for our football team both on and off the field. His work ethic and intelligence make him a valuable first-round prospect for any NFL team. We are proud that he has helped raise the standard at Mississippi State.”
At 6-foot-5, McKinney was the Bulldogs' top tackler the past two seasons. The middle linebacker played in 39 games with 36 career starts, racking up 244 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.
In 2014, McKinney became the first first-team All-America linebacker for Mississippi State since 1999 as the leader of the ‘psycho defense.' He started all 13 games and finished with a team-best 71 tackles and eight tackles for loss. ESPN, the Football Writers Association, Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated all recognized him as a first-team All-American. He was a 2014 semifinalist for the Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi Awards.
McKinney, who arrived at MSU as a two-star high school quarterback, helped lead the Bulldogs to their first No. 1 national ranking, a place they spent for five consecutive weeks.
McKinney joins All-Southeastern Conference running back Josh Robinson as MSU underclassmen who have declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, which will be held April 30-May 2 in Chicago.
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