It could turn into the feel-good comeback story of training camp—the comeback of linebacker Scott McKillop.
Three years ago, he was a fifth round pick of San Francisco and he led the Niners in special teams tackles as a rookie, playing in all 16-games. Two years ago in training camp McKillop suffered a catastrophic knee injury—tearing ligaments and a patella tendon. He missed all of the 20-10 season and was cut by the Niners in their 20-11 training camp.
The Bills jumped on McKillop as soon as the offseason began guessing that he's knee injury was healed. It looks like they guessed correctly.
"One-hundred percent. I have no ifs, ands or buts in my knee," McKillop says. "I'm out there full speed. There's no ifs and whenever I'm playing it's full speed—reading, reacting and having fun."
McKillop opened some eyes with his performance in the Bills preseason opener last week leading the team in tackles with six. It was his first NFL game action in more than two years; his first test of his surgically repaired left knee.
"It was a big hurdle," he tells Bills Focus. "Because of the extent of my injury, I was told by a bunch of people that I would never play football again. So it was a big personal goal for me, and my family and my friends, that I was able to achieve. Each practice and each week it's a little step by step, just trying to get better as a football player. I'm happy. I'm in a great place. No complaints."
"He made a lot of tackles," Head Coach Chan Gailey says. "He was in on a lot of plays the other night. Scott's done a good job; he's a good special teams player. He's making a real run at this football team. He's got a lot of natural instincts, that's the great thing about him. He understands the game. He's got to continue to work on pass coverage, but we've got a couple of linebackers in that spot."
McKillop says he's pleased with his recovery from the serious knee injury, and somewhat surprised that he's made it this far.
"It's pretty impressive," he says, "the things I've overcome, and the bumps in the road I've had in the last couple of years. I've had a great supporting cast. I'm very thankful and I'm blessed to be where I am."* *
Scott McKillop has been taking some reps with the Bills first team defense. But his real ticket to the roster is in his special teams play. His standout rookie year on the Niners special teams caught the attention of coaches around the league, including the Bills special teams coach
Bills Special Teams Coordinator Bruce DeHaven says when he was coaching Seattle's special teams, McKillop was on his radar in his outstanding rookie season of 2009.
"Scott was a very good special teamer in San Francisco.," DeHaven says. "When he first came in the league, I was up in Seattle, we played those guys twice a year. I remember looking at some film and the first time I saw him, I thought 'They've got themselves a good special teams player here.'"
"He is a really smart player. He understands special teams, he knows how important it is. He's worked for a couple of really good coaches so he's been trained well. We like him a lot.
If special teams are the ticket to Scott McKillop's successful return to the NFL, he's on board with that.
"I'm willing to do whatever," he says. "and whatever the team needs, I'll do it. I'm thirsty. I'm hungry to get back to the NFL."
Scott McKillop is eating up reps and savoring the chance to return to the NFL after two seasons on the shelf. And the Bills are feeding him as many snaps as he can handle as his comeback continues.