J.D. McKissic has spent the last four months doing everything he can to beat the odds and earn a job with the Falcons. Now, and now all he can do is wait.
As Atlanta continues the process of whittling down its roster, McKissic is someone who appears to be on the bubble. And whether or not he ultimately survives every round of cuts, the 5-foot-11, 193-pounder has made a strong case to stick around.
McKissic burst onto the scene during Atlanta's preseason opener by authoring a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Had it occurred during the regular season, it would have been the second-longest return in franchise history.
Two weeks later, he used his vision and speed to run a kickoff 49 yards toward midfield, setting up a Shayne Graham field goal. He had a 22-yard kick return that night, as well; his trio of punt returns, taken over the course of three games, went for eight, nine and 14 yards.
McKissic's 202 kickoff return yards ranked third league-wide during the preseason. It should be noted that he only had four attempts, while the two players ahead of him, Khalif Raymond (215) and Michael Thomas (259), had nine and 10 tries, respectively.
McKissic has also proved to be a factor on offense, hauling in eight receptions for 79 yards throughout the exhibition schedule. His second-to-last catch against the Jaguars, a nine-yard gain, brought him several feet shy of the end zone. (Terron Ward rumbled for a touchdown on the ensuing play.)
This kind of production is hard to ignore. Atlanta has mined a lot of talented rookies from the college free agent pool in recent memory, and McKissic, a former standout at Arkansas State, is certainly one of them.
"I just try to be destined for greatness," he said. "I just work hard at my craft and try to be the best that I can be. I'll try to get anywhere I can on the field. If it was meant for me to get drafted, I would have gotten drafted. Therefore, it was meant for me to be a free agent."
McKissic has impressed head coach Dan Quinn and his staff, but a lot of skilled players are vying for a limited number of spots. As is the case every year, tough choices will be made to optimize a 53-man roster.
Will Atlanta carry five wide receivers? Six? Seven? Maybe they want to keep four tight ends, or 10 offensive linemen, or an extra defensive back. Matt Simms has looked sharp of late; perhaps the Falcons want three QBs in tow.
How would any of those scenarios affect McKissic? There isn't an answer quite yet.
"That's something that we're still deciding based on the availability of guys," Quinn said Thursday regarding his team's composition. "So we're not at a set number as of tonight. That's something that Thomas (Dimitroff) and I have been discussing over the last few weeks. Tight ends, wideouts, running backs — all of them have their own unique fits, and a number of guys really battled to make a case for themselves tonight.
"So we'll go back and do that evaluation over the next couple days. But it was great to see, at the core of our program, the central theme is competition, and those guys have lived that."
Regardless of what happens in the coming days, McKissic knows he put his best foot forward. He has come a long way — from East Alabama to the Sun Belt Conference to the NFL — and has many reasons to feel proud.
"I think I played pretty good," McKissic said. "I kind of just tried to show the coaches that I can help out. Just tried to show this team I can help them out. I think I fit in perfectly (with the offense). I feel like I can help out in a lot of ways. I had an opportunity to make a few plays. Just to be here, man, at the end of the day, I'm blessed. Whatever happens, happens."