Always competitive, Khalil Shakir continues to prove himself with NFL teams | Sports
Every spring, Matt Gates’ career hinges on the NFL Scouting Combine. And yet, the co-owner of the Florida-based XPE Sports training facility is candid about the whole show.
“It’s the underwear Olympics,” Gates said.
He knows how stupid all of this is, that NFL teams might be basing their picks on arcane drills and bizarre metrics rather than what prospects do on a football field. But he also knows the reality: the better someone performs in the Underwear Olympics, the higher they can be drafted and, therefore, the more money they will earn.
“The whole point of what we’re doing is to put as much money as possible in the pockets of these kids right off the bat,” Gates said. “When we have a kid running faster than the scouts expected, it forces those scouts and those front offices to spend a lot more time watching the movie.”
And so, as former Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir — an XPE Sports client — came to the combine, Gates knew that if Shakir could execute a solid 40-yard dash, he’d be in a “perfect spot.” .
Running fast for a few seconds gives no indication of success in the NFL, Gates knows that. But impressive weather would inspire teams to watch not just Shakir’s highlights, but every shot he took in the blue and orange – which is helpful given that “he has a great film”, said said Gates.
So on the first Thursday in March, as Shakir prepared for his first attempt, Gates and his XPE staff rushed from their downtown Indianapolis Westin ballroom to the lobby bar. Just as Shakir crossed the line, NFL Network posted an unofficial time that no one saw coming: 4.35 seconds.
“We were going crazy,” Gates said.
Even though the official time bumped Shakir’s time to 4.43 seconds, the excitement continued.
The 6-foot, 196-pound Boise State wide receiver didn’t achieve much national prominence during his Treasure Valley career. Even after catching 77 passes for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior, many pundits knocked his waist off and questioned his run. His combined performance ensured that the scouts in fact look at his tape.
“I hear exactly the same thing I think everyone is, that they’re shocked that he ran so fast,” Gates said. “It’s just kind of a surge where teams put him on their draft board.”
Boise State’s Pro Day was stress-free for its main attraction — as well as stress-free for an event that puts someone on a scale and shouts their weight to a room of a few hundred.
Shakir’s combined performance, coupled with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl, raised his projections to a Day 2 prospect (two and three rounds). He had little to prove Wednesday, so much so that he didn’t run the 40-yard sprint. And yet, he erased the little doubt that remained.
The Broncos’ star passer completed a 38.5-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-4 wide jump, 225-pound bench for 16 reps and showed his running ability as a BSU redshirt rookie Taylen Green fired balls around the field.
“I’m happy with how today went,” said Shakir. “God willing, I’ll land somewhere I’m meant to be.”
Shakir has already formed his day project plans, getting an AirBnB in Florida so his grandparents can attend. And that is a luxury. Not the AirBnB per se, but security knowing its name will for sure be called.
For those who have seen his talent for a long time, it is not a surprise.
David Olson, Shakir’s coach at Vista Murrieta High, still remembers when he met a then skinny freshman eight years ago. It weighed 135 pounds with rocks in its pocket, so light that Olson feared injury when defenders swallowed it.
He quickly realized that was silly. Defenders couldn’t hurt Shakir because, well, they couldn’t catch him.
“A lot of the punt returns seemed almost comical. Guys would miss it right and left,” Olson said. “If he had any workspace, he was extremely difficult to approach. Even the kids who were really, really good athletes who were Division I kids would miss him. I just miss him.
Even in college, Shakir made sure his height was outdated.
“You think of the catching radius and you think of the big 6-3, 6-4 wide receivers,” BSU safety coach Kane Ioane said. “Khalil is a 6ft guy who can do the catch here, behind him, I mean he’s done some of the most phenomenal catches I’ve seen in person.”
After Pro Day ended, Shakir met with Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers coach Chris Jackson, the only NFL position coach present. The pair left the turf together and Shakir began driving Jackson into the Boise State receivers room.
“Do you spend a lot of time in there? Jackson asked.
Shakir turned around with a smirk. “Oh yeah,” he said.
People have known this for a long time.
“You don’t meet these kids very often,” Olson said. “He did things no one could ever teach him to do – and he still does. But he was an extremely hard worker. … All the little nuances necessary to be an excellent receiver, he worked on them.
Olson called Shakir “one of those exemplary kids,” which applied even to the times that frustrated coach Vista Murrieta.
Olson’s team had plenty of Division I talent on their roster. Even after Shakir was secure in his college future, college coaches would go through the Southern California school.
Vista Murrieta had some cleated defensive backs — namely Elijah Guidry, who later went to UCLA — that he hoped to showcase in front of powerful eyes. But Shakir made that nearly impossible.
“He would be very dominant. He was just very competitive,” Olson said. “I would say ‘Khalil, we’re also trying to get these other scholarships.’ It’s just his personality…. He kind of had this killer mentality.
In other words, Shakir would do whatever it takes to win.
BSU coach Andy Avalos recounted a moment from the Broncos’ victory over No. 10 BYU from last season. Boise State had finally found a groove to run the ball through, torching the Cougars for big win after big win. Shakir spent most of the afternoon blocking – and he was doing well.
On the helmet with offensive coordinator Tim Plow, Shakir told the BSU caller he didn’t need the ball.
“Keep doing what you’re doing,” Shakir told Plow.
“He’s the kind of man Khalil is,” Avalos said.