Then McKinley started to develop a larger following on Twitter because he spoke his mind about anything and everything through social media.
McKinley has been given the green light to participate in 11-on-11 drills after starting camp limited to individual position work, following rehab from pre-draft shoulder surgery. General manager Thomas Dimitroff said prior to camp the team hoped to give McKinley meaningful reps in the third exhibition against Arizona on Aug. 26. The Falcons have been confident all along about McKinley being ready for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener at Chicago.
Now that the defensive end from UCLA is back on the field, he's letting his pads do the talking. Just ask teammates Kevin Graf and Wil Freeman, a couple of tackles who felt the wrath of McKinley's bull rushes over the first week of training camp. And starter Jake Matthews might be next on the list.
Don't expect McKinley to brag about any of his plays, no matter how outspoken he might appear to be.
"I don't really talk," McKinley said of his on-field demeanor. "I'm not a big talker. I just work. I'm not the rah-rah guy that's like, 'Man, do this, do that.' I'll make plays and celebrate to fire the team up. But I'm a rookie. It's not my place to tell vets, 'Pick it up. Pick it up.' I'm here to work, here to learn and to help us win."
McKinley had the respect of his teammates from Day 1. While some outsiders were critical of his outburst on draft night -- real emotion related to him fulfilling a promise to his late grandmother to overcome a rugged past and make it to the NFL -- his Falcons "brothers" viewed him as a guy with passion whom they couldn't wait to welcome to the team.
"I knew where he was coming from," middle linebacker Deion Jones said. "I mean, I lost my grandmother. For him to fulfill that promise, that's emotion. That's why he does what he does. And I understand it. A lot of people might not understand it, but I do. He has a lot of passion behind what he does. That's what moves him. That's what keeps him going. That's why he wakes up. That's why he grinds. I'm with it.
"His story? You have to feel his passion about that."
McKinley's goal now is to make sure opponents feel him, every time he lines up across from them.