George “The Matador” Mira, Robert “Speedy” Neal, Corey Sawyer and Ran Carthon. That is the list of Key West High graduates who have made their way into the National Football League. Between April 29 to May 1, the Conchs’ all-time leading rusher, Mekhi Sargent, is hoping to add his name to that list as he has declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“It will mean a lot to me because it will be a testament to my hard work and definitely my sacrifice,” said Sargent. “Going out to Iowa to take a shot on myself and to be part of that list will be such an honor, especially coming from where we come from, where there’s not a lot of inspiration with previous pro players. It will be an accomplishment but I’m far from done.”
Sargent stated he declared for the draft a few weeks back, after graduating from the University of Iowa University with a degree in sports recreation and management with a concentration in coaching on Dec. 19.
“At this point I know I can go do what I want,” said Sargent.
What he wants is to realize his dream and be part of an NFL roster, which is closer than he ever imagined as Sargent conveyed he expects to be drafted between the fifth and seventh rounds or be a preferred free agent.
“A lot of people want to see my 40 time so I figure if I crack a 4.5 it will help my draft stock,” he said.
The last time Sargent ran the 40 he clocked a 4.63 but that was after just three weeks of training before the 2020 campaign. In his mind, that just means there’s work to be done and currently Sargent is back home in Key West, “training day in and out” on his conditioning and agility on the field.
He spent five total years in Iowa, redshirting his first season at Iowa Western Community College where he went on to be named the Junior College National Co-Player of the Year after rushing for 1,449 yards and 14 touchdowns in his lone year with the Reivers. The last three seasons were spent with the Division-I Hawkeyes, after proving his worth on the junior college level, where he would collect 2,040 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns.
“It was a completely different world for me, especially after high school, because I had never been to a place in the Midwest,” Sargent said about his college career. “I was also on my own up there, so there was a lot of maturity going on while I was there. It was definitely a mental battle and I’m fortunate enough to have my family and my loved one help me every step of the way.”
He added that playing for the University of Iowa was a great experience and from Day 1, as he said, “the coaches all respected me and liked me from the get-go.”
Making the move to the NFL has been another challenge as it has not been a typical offseason, any many of the rookie events have been postponed or altogether canceled due to concerns about COVID-19. Sargent did make note that the Senior Bowl and Hula Bowl in Hawaii will have NFL representatives and Sargent hopes to receive an invite for both, as well as the NFL combine, and maybe even still be able to be part of the Hawkeyes’ Pro Day.
“I have no idea right now about any of it,” said Sargent. “The NFL combine still has not sent out invites at all this year and all of people are waiting to see if Pro Days are still going on or not.”
In the end, as long as he lands on an NFL roster, Sargent admitted he does not care which team he is playing for next season or, for that matter, what position he is playing.
“The only thing that matters to me is getting the opportunity and I’m going to make the most of any opportunity that comes my way,” said Sargent. “If I don’t get drafted but I have a chance, I’m going to do everything in my power to make that team.
“I’m willing to do anything and everything, whether that be on special teams, but really I want to stay at running back, I feel that’s my position, I really I feel I can do anything,” he added.
The hard work and dedication it will take for reach the NFL level is really nothing new to Sargent; after all, it’s how he became the Conchs’ all-time leading rusher and how he figures he can become the next part of that short list of professional football players — Mira from 1964-1971 primarily with the Baltimore Colts, Neal with the Buffalo Bills in 1984, Sawyer from 1994-1999 primarily with the Cincinnati Bengals and Carthon with the Indianapolis Colts from 2004-2006 — who graduated from Key West High.
“I’ve basically carried this mindset the whole time coming out of Key West, because realistically, no one thinks we have ballers down here. Every time I talk to someone it’s more about vacation, so I felt like up until this point I’ve been proving people wrong,” said Sargent. “I have to make the most of what I have to turn some heads and I’m confident things will happen as they are supposed to.”