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Atlanta Falcons DE Takk McKinley relied on heartwarming ritual during his rookie season

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Fact: Takk McKinley has an extensive collection of figure skater trading cards

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

After he was drafted, Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takk McKinley didn’t waste any time showcasing his ... enthusiastic personality. His emotional outburst in honor of his deceased grandmother, telling the powers that be to “fine [him] later,” went viral. It endeared him to the fanbase immediately. It made NFL draft history.

Takk’s relationship with his grandmother motivated him in pursuit of his NFL dream, and it continued to motivate him once he arrived. You should go read Vaughn McClure’s piece about special Takk’s pre-game ritual, if you have a moment.

“When it was time to go out on the field for the last time after the coaches speak, I’d look at the picture, get emotional,” McKinley said. “It was just a picture of her sitting on the couch. It was just memories.” McKinley sometimes flipped to another picture in the same sequence that showed him smiling with his arm wrapped around Collins as she sat in a recliner. Both images drove him to play that much harder.

Go ahead, take a second and wipe that tear from your eye. I won’t look. As a reminder, Takk’s Grandmother, Myrtle Collins, took him in and raised him from a young age. She had to recycle cans to get the rent paid. She managed to keep him on a straight and narrow path, which is no easy feat in the neighborhood Takk grew up in. In short, that woman loved him an awful lot.

Takk may not be the most subdued player on this team, and that’s just fine. His passion for life, and more to the point, his passion for the game, is what makes him so special. If he held back, even a little bit, he simply wouldn’t be the same Takk.