Khalil Shakir isn't your average rookie wide receiver.
Buffalo's newest offensive weapon didn't join the team just trying to master one receiver position, he wants to master all of them. Position flexibility is something that the Bills' coaches covet, and Shakir brings that element to the offense.
"He's Bills DNA through and through," General Manager Brandon Beane said on the latest episode of Buffalo Bills: Embedded. "A guy that can play inside, can play out. Has some speed, has a little bit of run after the catch ability."
At Boise State, Shakir lined up at every receiver position and even in the backfield. He had 208 receptions and 71 rushing attempts throughout his four-year career. The speedy receiver even averaged 121.5 all-purpose yards during his junior and senior seasons, which was the most in the Mountain West Conference.
His versatility is something that can be a big advantage for the Bills' offense. But coming in as a rookie and trying to wrap your head around an NFL playbook can be tricky. Learning multiple positions instead of one could be a daunting task for some, but Shakir sees it as a fun challenge for himself.
"It's hard, but it's exciting at the same time to be able to learn everything," Shakir said. "And when you go out there and you run it right, it's a big accomplishment. It's like, 'all right, let me lock back in because now I got to do the next play right again.' Once you keep doing stuff right, you got to make sure you don't get too high on that because you got to stay level-headed, move on to the next play and continue to do things right."
His ability to learn and be able to play multiple positions on offense didn't start in college. It was in high school that he would play wild back quarterback, line up in the backfield and out wide. His head coach at Boise State, Andy Avalos, noticed early that Shakir was more of a football player than just a receiver. But there was something about his intelligence at a young age that stood out to him.
"It was very evident from the beginning as we started to watch Shaq's (Khalil Shakir) film in high school, and the things that his high school coaches said about him, number one he's able to handle the mental side of playing these different positions and it doesn't slow him down," Avalos said on One Bills Live. "He actually enjoys doing all these different things. And obviously, when you pop on the film, it wasn't hard to see his talent in the things he can do on the field."
The Bills' fifth-round pick can do a lot for the team on the field with his athletic ability, speed, and versatility. But what's more impressive is his leadership capabilities and how he's carried himself around teammates and coaches.
In college, Shakir was one of the biggest leaders on the team. He advocated for more accountability between the players and made sure they got the best out of each other so the team could thrive. Being a leader wasn't something that the wide receiver had just gotten into at Boise State, those qualities have been instilled in him since he was a kid.
"I think it comes from being a military baby," Shakir said. "My dad was a Marine for 24 years. So, the way he ran his household growing up was very disciplined. Making sure that I always looked out for my blood brothers; my older brother, my little brother, taking care of my older sister even though she was older, and things like that. Just the stuff I learned when I was younger and the stuff that he instilled in me, as far as the discipline aspect of life just carried over to football."
Having that foundation has made Shakir the athlete, teammate, and person that he is today. Just like his father taught him many lessons about leadership, his college coach continued to build off that foundation at Boise State.
"He (Avalos) was somebody who was on me heavy about my leadership, the way I work, and the way I make sure I lead by example," Shakir shared. "So, every single day I heard from him about how to handle myself. Once I start handling myself the right way, then I can start to bring guys along with me and show them how to do things.
"That all comes from him. Just from the moment he got there, making sure that I was on it. If I slacked off the tiniest bit, no matter what, he was on me. He was on me every single day making sure that I was just doing the right thing and leading guys."
The Bills' front office was so blown away by what Shakir brought to the table that they would've taken him in the fourth round - if they had a pick. They were elated that he made it to the fifth round but knew they couldn't wait much longer to get their guy. Beane traded up 20 spots to make sure that Shakir was coming to Buffalo because of all the special traits he brings on and off the field.
"Very high character and he works hard," Beane said on day three of the draft. "People at Boise speak very highly of him, and he fits our DNA. All of that in his package and has some straight-line speed when he gets up and rolling. I think he ran low 4.4s and then you see what he can do once he's up to the top end."
Avalos has spoken very highly of Shakir and he's confident that the rookie's intelligence, leadership skills, and work ethic will help ease the transition from college to the NFL.
"Very self-driven," Avalos said." His standard and expectations for himself are very high. So, what comes with that is the consistency of what you're talking about, whether it's Week 2 or Week 17, he's going to come to get it done every morning. And the best part about him too is it's not just about him.
"It is about him in terms of how he carries himself and the standard he holds himself to. But when I say it's not about him, it's not about all the flash and everything else. It's about the team. It's about the things he does to help his teammates to help bring him along. And that's one of the best qualities about him is that he is a great, great teammate."