NEW YORK -- Gerry Philbin only wishes this moment would have happened long ago.
When Khalil Mack hears his name called in the first round of tonight's NFL Draft, he'll officially become the highest-drafted player ever from the University at Buffalo.
That's a distinction that Philbin has owned for the past 49 years -- since the New York Jets selected the All-American defensive lineman in the third round (19th overall) of the 1964 AFL Draft (Philbin was also selected in the third round of the 1964 NFL Draft, 33rd overall, by the Detroit Lions).
"Records are meant to be broken," Philbin said this morning from him home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla, where he's enjoying retirement. "It's great for the school. They're playing a good schedule, and the coach is doing a good job. This is great for his recruiting. Now he can say, 'no matter if you play at Notre Dame or Buffalo, you can still get drafted No. 1 by a team in the NFL.' You can't say it any better than that."
Philbin said he caught "a bunch" of UB's games this past season on television, and came away impressed with what he saw from Mack.
"I just think he's a great football player," he said. "They say it's a little school, but they played a big schedule this past year. As a matter of fact, the last two years, they've surprised me. They've started off with these big teams.
"The competition you play in the MAC Conference doesn't compare to the Big 10 or the SEC, but these scouts have a way of picking out a football player when they see one, whether he's playing the MAC or the SEC. And Khalil Mack, he fits right in there. They're not taking anything away from his competition. They just see what he does on the football field, all the attributes he has. His speed, his strength, his size. He's got the total package."
Philbin became a two-time All-Pro selection and was named to the all-time All-AFL team following the AFL-NFL merger. He ranked 17th on ESPN's list of 50 greatest Jets of all time, and was a member of the team's Super Bowl III victory. He hopes that Mack, who will become the ninth UB player ever drafted, enjoys similar success.
"I'd love to see him win championships," he said. "I'm a big fan. I want everyone to enjoy what I was able to."
"Definitely. 100 percent. They're playing good schedule. The teams that they've played, and they almost won, I mean, God, they were in there for a while. I think it's great for the program. The coach is doing a good job. It's great for recruiting. They can say, no matter if you play at Notre Dame or Buffalo, you can still get drafted No. 1 by a team in the NFL. And then from there, where do you go? You can't say it any better than that."