Years of hard work, drive and discipline have the power to turn a hobby into a dream, which is what has happened to Florida A&M football player Orlando McKinley.
A 21-year-old cornerback, kick returner and punt returner, McKinley is a psychology major from Atlanta.
As McKinley was growing up, football was a way for him to bond with his father.
“I remember that I would always watch the game (football) with my dad on the weekends,” said McKinley. “When I saw how much he loved the sport, I wanted to give it a try. I haven’t put the ball down ever since.”
McKinley has been playing football for 18 years, although there was a period in his life where he felt that he wouldn’t be able to give his life to the sport any longer.
“Around my junior and senior years of high school, I felt like I was done with football,” said McKinley. “I wasn’t getting the type of offers (from college football scouts) that I felt I was capable of earning. Football wasn’t fun anymore and I felt like I was forcing myself to play.”
McKinley explained that the support he received from his parents, Orlando McKinley, Sr. and LaQuisha McKinley, encouraged him to continue pursuing his dreams of one day playing professional football.
McKinley’s mother, LaQuisha McKinley, said her son is a hard worker and she felt he was destined to do great things.
“I’ve always admired his work ethic,” she said. “Orlando would take equipment outside and run his own circuits on his own. Because of his talent and work ethic I am a firm believer that he will make it to the pros.”
Fortunately, it wasn’t long until McKinley’s football reel was sent into FAMU’s Athletic Department, which quickly led to him getting recruited to the university’s team.
“I’ve been playing beside Orlando for four years (on FAMU’s football team),” said McKinley’s teammate, Terry Jefferson, 22, a sports management major. “He’s one of a kind. In my opinion his talent, footwork and instincts could take him a long way.”
According to McKinley, he hopes to further his football career after he graduates college.
“I do plan on going pro,” said McKinley. “Being that I’m from Atlanta, my dream is to get drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. But it doesn’t matter which team drafts me or picks me up. I will play for whoever wants me.”
In order for McKinley to stay physically prepared, he maintains a strict daily workout routine.
“My day starts with conditioning or game speed training at 7 a.m. Then leads to weight training at 8 a.m. After that, I like to do yoga for about 45 minutes and then I like to hit FAMU’s pool to do a couple of laps.”
McKinley’s athletic discipline and overall desire for the game is helping him keep his eye on the prize.
“Playing pro football has been my dream since I started playing as a child,” said McKinley. “That’s what is keeping me going. Not many can say that they have lived out their dreams. I plan on being able to say that I have.”