August 11, 2011

Mackey is chasing a big dream

Texas Tech head football coach Tommy Tuberville said defensive linemen who stray away from the big boy numbers in the 80 to 90 range have a bigger target on their back.

Defensive end Leon Mackey, who will wear No. 11 this season, gladly accepts the target. And from what viewers have seen at the Red Raiders' first six fall camps indicate Mackey can withstand extra attention.

"I just like this number because my brother, this is his signature number," Mackey said. "He doesn't play football anymore. He works in the mill like everybody like that. So I wear it to honor him."

Mackey made it clear he's happy to be at Tech. He's happy to be given the chance to showcase his abilities on the Division I level rather than the junior college ranks where he's been for his first two collegiate seasons.

It's mindboggling to think Mackey was ever on the junior college level. He looks like he's been playing defensive line at Auburn for the past two seasons. He's been a part of almost any play he's been in.

Coming in, the Red Raiders expected Mackey to have the physical tools to be a dominant defensive end. Watching him from the sidelines, he's not deceptively big or deceptively strong. It's clear that he is both big and strong.

Mackey stands 6-foot-5 and he definitely is at least the listed 256 pounds he was listed as in the reporting day roster a week ago.

Tuberville has applauded Mackey's work ethic since he arrived in Lubbock.

"What you see is what you get," Tuberville said about a week ago on reporting day. "He's going to make us all look good getting off the bus. Two, he's been here all summer and every time I've walked to the treadmill or just walked through the weight room he's been here and been working or doing something to get better. It's crunch time for him here. He's spent two years in junior college and he can have an easier life if he has two good years here and uses his ability.

"He has to be passionate about what he's getting ready to do. If you're not passionate about football at this point and his age then you have problems."

It's clear Mackey wants to achieve the dream.

The mental aspect and Mackey's mentality are what have made him a dominant figure on the Red Raider defensive line from day one of fall camp. Having defensive lineman coach Robert Prunty helps.

Mackey and Prunty first crossed paths when Mackey played a year of post-high school football at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. Prunty was his head coach.

"He's a good coach," Mackey said. "He pushes me hard, real hard. But I told him I want to be a great player so when I told him that it became written in stone. That's my signature on that stone and he pushes me.

"On days I feel like, 'man, I'm tired,' he pushes me harder and when I get more tired he keeps pushing me. That's what I need and that's how I work every chance I get."

Mackey has backed up the hype he entered with in his first week of organized practice in Division I.

Mackey said there's still a lot of improvement he can make and described his time at Tech thus far as the most challenged physically he's ever been. Something he's enjoying and he reaches for the big dream away from a mill.

"The Big 12, like any conference, coming from Juco it's a big change as far as practice pace, getting pushed harder than I've ever been pushed," Mackey said. "I'm around a bunch of football coaches that want greatness every day. It's good for me to wash out my bad habits and be more disciplined and be more of a student of the game.

"It's up and downs, that's a part of life and I expected that when I came into it. I expected nothing to be easy when I came here and what I want is what I'm going to do based on coach P, coach Chad Glasgow, coach Tubs push on me with film everyday these two-a-days."

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