FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — When rookie defensive end Takkarrist McKinley walked on stage after hearing his name called at No. 26 to the Falcons, he carried with him a huge portrait of his grandmother, Myrtle Collins. A promise to her is one of the biggest driving forces in McKinley’s life.

McKinley met with the Atlanta media via a conference call shortly after he was drafted and told the one of the stories about what his grandmother means to him.

READ MORE: Atlanta School Renamed For Baseball Legend Hank Aaron

With his grandmother on her deathbed, McKinley made a promise to her. He said he’d get out of Oakland, out of Richmond, California, play Division I football and live out his dream to play in the NFL. After making that pledge, McKinley said she passed away 30 seconds later.

“That promise means everything to me,” said McKinley. “Without that promise, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you guys right now. That’s the honest truth.”

According to McKinley, in the rough area he grew up, few make it out; some don’t even get past middle school, he said. McKinley’s grandmother kept him from gang life and pushed him to achieve.

READ MORE: Atlanta Public Schools Celebrates All-Time High Graduation Rate

“We used to watch wrasslin’ all day,” said McKinley. His grandmother was a huge Booker T fan and that bond never went away.



MORE NEWS: Georgia Expands CAPS Child Care Program To Add 10,000 More Children