Booker T on inspiring NFL Draft pick Takkarist McKinley

Booker T and Takkarist McKinley

Takkarist McKinley made headlines after being selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The defensive end out of UCLA gave an emotional interview after his selection, holding a picture of his late grandmother as he spoke about the promise he made to her to get out of his rough neighborhood and succeed. The interview wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Raw or SmackDown LIVE, and it turns out that might have been for a reason.

The Falcons released a video on Twitter last week with McKinley talking about how WWE was must-watch television for he and his grandmother every week, keeping him off the streets of Oakland, Calif. The NFL rookie was quick to note that WWE Hall of Famer Booker T was his grandmother’s favorite Superstar. The former five-time WCW Champion also reached out to McKinley on Twitter to lend his support. caught up with Booker T to find out what it means to play a small role in influencing someone’s life.

WWE.COM: How did you first hear about Takkarist McKinley?

BOOKER T: Someone had called me and said that I was on NFL. I saw a photo of me pinning Dean Malenko and wondered what it was, then I saw the article and interview. It’s pretty cool.

WWE.COM: What does it mean to you that wrestling (and yourself) played such a big part in his life?

BOOKER T: I was that kid once upon a time, looking for inspiration on how to navigate my way through life. Muhammad Ali was my inspiration. From the beginning, I knew I had the chance to be in that position, because there were a lot of kids of color in those neighborhoods watching that could draw strength and inspiration. I knew it, but to see it play out with a young man living his dream that watched me with his grandmother, staying out of trouble, perhaps due to me telling my story and not wanting to follow in those footsteps is awesome.

WWE.COM: Did you see him get drafted?

BOOKER T: Yeah, it was cool. It was one of those moments where I felt somewhat connected to him.

WWE.COM: What made you reach out to him on Twitter?

BOOKER T: Sometimes, watching someone and …. Like, for myself, I got a chance to meet Muhammad Ali. He invited me to his hotel and I got a chance to take photos with him. It was the most awesome moment of my life. For him to actually mention me, I thought it was only right for me to reach out and give him a little extra push, knowing that someone’s out there watching and respects him.

WWE.COM: Is there an open invitation for him to come to Raw?

BOOKER T: I’m sure there’s going be a time we’ll meet. We’ll be in Atlanta and I’ll reach out to him. That’s what cool about me being here and still being in the wrestling business. I can still give back, even being in the announcer’s booth. I still feel like I’m a role model and I have a job to do.

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