PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Stanford Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee (18) releases a pass during the game between Notre Dame and Stanford Cardinals on Saturday, November 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Douglas Stringer/IconSportswire)
PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Stanford Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee (18) releases a pass during the game between Notre Dame and Stanford Cardinals on Saturday, November 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Douglas Stringer/IconSportswire)

Man on a Mission -Tanner McKee, The Stanford Cardinal

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Tanner McKee.

This is a name that hasn’t been mentioned very much during this draft cycle.

It seems as though he has been quite the enigma, and I am going to do my best to clear that up right now.

After reading this article, I am sure that you will remember this quarterback (QB).

What’s McKee’s background?

In 2018, after receiving scholarship offers from 30-plus schools, McKee signed his letter-of-intent to play for the Stanford Cardinal. He then promptly left on a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in Paranaguá, Brazil.

The day that he left for South America was something he had been planning since he was eight-years old, and putting aside his football career is something he had never had to think twice about.

This story is not without attribution.

In 2016, just after turning 16 years old, McKee, the star quarterback at Centennial High School in California, he was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. It was same form of cancer that his great-grandfather had died from.

He would have successful surgery in June of that year, to remove the cancer, and two lymph nodes.

However, he never skipped a beat, even without knowing if he would ever again play the game he loves.

McKee did indeed play again, and he didn’t just play, he played exceptionally well.

In 2017, he was invited to the “Elite 11,” a prep QB competition. It was there he was a finalist, alongside fellow young passers, MVP Justin Fields, and future No. 1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence.

Of course, Lawrence went on to Clemson, while McKee found himself pumping iron, with a makeshift barbell, at his barred-window apartment, in Brazil.

He never saw being out of football (strength/conditioning) for two years as a huge disadvantage, though. What he did see was the mission being an opportunity to mature as a teammate, and a leader, by helping others’ be at their best.

He knew that he would be a better football player when he came back.

Tell me more…

There has never been a question about McKee’s physical attributes, or his 6’6” 230-pound body. His arm talent is also awesome. He will make the first round on this alone.

His mental makeup is what so many will be looking at. I think it speaks volumes in itself.

McKee’s statistics on the other hand leave something to be desired (34 TD, 18 INT in 23 games) and makes this a tougher case.

When you look at his frame, he is tall and lanky and it causes a bit of a long release. He additionally has some plodding footwork. Watching him reminds me of his friend, Lawrence who now plays in Jacksonville. McKee has that same body-type.

There is also the issue he holds the ball too long in the pocket, which didn’t help with the interceptions. Of course, it didn’t help he was on a terrible team either. However, locking in on receivers because you believe in your arm talent is never good.

McKee did manage to pull out a couple of wins against No. 3 ranked Oregon and No. 14 ranked USC. Plus, he beat Notre Dame, which he probably shouldn’t have.

What I didn’t see so much of was the ability to improvise.

The sense of urgency was definitely there when it was needed. Then again, versus Washington this year, his offensive line was being pushed back in his face, and he didn’t do much to try and avoid it.

He was taking sacks and getting the ball swatted at because he didn’t want to leave the pocket.

Ty Detmer, while the Offensive Coordinator at BYU, was quoted with saying “What stood out to me the most was how accurately he threw the ball and how quick he got it out.”

So what’s next?

My BIG three questions

1. Was it a bad team that led to his struggles, or was he not thinking for himself?

2. Did he sit in the pocket versus Washington, because he was told to, or was it because he didn’t know any better?

3. In Brazil, did he learn how to lead, or did he just follow?

How McKee stacks up and game film reviewed

Draft projection: First-Round

Pro comparison: Trevor Lawrence (Who loves football)

Game film evaluated:

USC ‘21

Washington ‘22

Oregon ‘22

The author, William Yanish, has been a football fan since he was knee high to a grasshopper. He played football until his body wouldn’t let him any longer at the tender young age of 17. He is an aspiring sports writer and author, who covers the NFL Draft for firstroundmock.com. Yanish attended Colorado Mesa University on the western slope of Colorado.

Sources:

1. https://www.sfchronicle.com/sports/college/article/Tanner-McKee-beat-cancer-at-age-16-Now-he-s-16573735.php

2. https://www.deseret.com/sports/. 2019/9/15/20750826/stanford-football-quarterback-tanner-mckee-mormon-lds-missionary

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