He has a smile that can light up a football stadium, but during a Community Meet & Greet Saturday, June 10 in Richmond, it was Takkarist “Takk” McKinley’s love for his hometown that shined through.
During the day-long event outside of For Richmond’s office and in a nearby Community Room, approximately 200 residents gathered together to mingle with McKinley over a tasty BBQ lunch while celebrating his recent accomplishment of being selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the recent NFL draft.
Sporting a black and red Falcons’ jersey, McKinley spent a generous amount of time with fans throughout the day, signing numerous footballs and other items and mugging for countless selfies with an adoring community that included a gaggle of excited local kids.
But the stand-out moment of the day arrived when McKinley addressed the crowd and reflected upon his youth in Richmond and path to the NFL draft.
McKinley mentioned friends he knew growing up in Richmond who were killed or who went to jail and said he realized that he was either going to end up like that or he was going to make something of his life.
“I didn’t want to be six feet under,” McKinley told event attendees. “I just feel like there’s gotta be a way for us to change the community; there’s gotta be a way to get kids to college…We gotta find a way to change this community around,” he said of Richmond.
During his remarks that included a round of appreciation expressed to those who supported him—with special props to his late grandmother, Myrtle Collins, and his relatives Peggy and Sylvester Wiggins—McKinley quickly turned his attentions back to the Richmond community.
“My thing is I made it to the draft first-round, but for me it’s bigger than football,” said McKinley. “I am from Richmond…And I understand that there’s a huge problem going on right now in our community. Teenagers are getting killed and not even reaching the age of 18 and 21. And for me, that really touches my heart…”
“I feel like I have the ability to change lives,” he added.
McKinley told the crowd that one of his plans for giving back to his hometown community includes working with For Richmond to fly members of the Kennedy High School football team to his other alma mater of UCLA to watch the university’s team play some football games from the field with all-access passes.
Later, For Richmond Executive Director Kyra Worthy announced that McKinley has selected For Richmond as his designated nonprofit for pursuing his charitable contributions and endeavors. She also surprised him with a special gift from the organization.
“Meeting Takk was a meaningful thing for me…I would like to present Takk with a scholarship in his grandmother’s name that will be for a Kennedy High student athlete that graduates every year in the amount of $5,000,” Worthy announced to thunderous applause. “This year it will be a student named Precious Haynes; she will be going to Alabama A&M.”
Another event speaker that day was Richmond City Councilmember Jael Myrick, who announced that July 14 will now be “Takk Day” in Richmond.
Asanat Wiggins, Peggy Wiggins, Coach Carl Sumler of Kennedy High, Coach Carter of San Jose State University (formerly of Contra Costa College), Kevin Winston of the Atlanta Falcons and Ryan Toner, Takk’s sports agent, also took to the mic to make special remarks.
“Thank you all for coming out here and supporting me,” McKinley said at the end of the day. “This is only the beginning for me, this is not the end. And I’m a good player, but I’m gonna be great. And I’m gonna need [all of your] support throughout my entire career. Thank you—I love you all!”
Stay tuned for more news about For Richmond’s future community efforts with Takk McKinley!
-Kathy Chouteau, firstname.lastname@example.org