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'A Hall of Fame Talent': Chargers Teammates Describe Khalil Mack's Historic 2023 Season

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At 32 years old, Khalil Mack is having one of the best seasons of his already illustrious career.

The Chargers outside linebacker has simply been elite in his 10th NFL season, adding an AFC Defensive Player of the Month award for November to his resumé on Thursday.

Mack, who won the award for the third time in his career, led all NFL players during the month of November with 6.0 sacks, two strip-sacks and three multi-sack games. He also tallied 23 tackles (19 solo), five tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and three passes defensed.

Still, only one thing remains on Mack's mind.

"I'm trying to win some ballgames," Mack said about winning the award. "That's the only thing I can focus on and think about."

Mack later added: "Whatever you think, whatever y'all think ... however, y'all think I'm playing, that's what it is. I don't necessarily pay attention to that, mostly just trying to get a win."

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It's part of the even-keeled and humble demeanor that has kept him as one of the league's best of his generation — and why he's continued to receive praise for his play in Year 10.

Mack's play in November was just a small part of what he's meant to the Bolts defense this season, as he has been able to put together an even more impressive campaign during his second year in the powder blues.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley saw what Mack was capable of when he was contending for previous Defensive Player of the Year awards and believes his performance this season will be up there as well.

"This is going to be one of the top seasons he's ever had," Staley said earlier this week. "In 2018 when I was with him, I think he should have been Defensive Player of the Year that year. Had we not held him out of those two games, I think he would have been.

"He's playing at an elite level, as well as I've ever seen him play. He looks fresh. He looks healthy," Staley added.

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley also offered up a great one-liner about Mack's dominance.

"You wouldn't know he was 32 unless you looked at his driver's license," Ansley said Thursday.

For the most part, Mack is a man of few words that lets the play on the field do the talking.

So, over the past few days, Chargers.com asked a handful of his teammates to describe Mack's 2023 season in one word.

Their answers gave a glimpse into what has made Mack so impactful for so long.

"Youthful," linebacker Eric Kendricks said.

"I feel like he's doing [stuff] right now. He looks really fresh and looks really good out there," Kendricks added. "He's playing really well, getting all over the ball. He's making tackles in the run game. Obviously, we know what he's doing in the pass game. He's youthful, man."

"Freakish," outside linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu said.

"Just how he be moving on the field, just how he can react to things, change directions so quickly," Tuipulotu added. "It's just crazy how he could do so many moves and certain movements. I would say a freak athlete."

"Greatness," safety Derwin James, Jr. said during his Wednesday media availability.

"One of the best rushers in the league. He's ballin'," James added. "He's a guy that has Hall of Fame talent. Every day, he's getting better."

Mack's longevity and ability to still play at a high level has impacted both younger players and veterans as well.

"It's inspiring to me to watch him," said Kendricks, who is on Year 9 in the NFL. "Maybe you take it for granted because we know the kind of player he is day-in and day-out, but for him to be playing at the high level he is — no matter what the circumstance is — I see that. He's running to the ball and that motivates me to get there as well."

Kendricks then noted that he already knows he's going to look back at his career and be grateful he was a teammate of No. 52.

"I love him as a teammate. Very unselfish," Kendricks said. "I actually told him that this week, that I was happy I got to play with him."

Then there's the impact Mack has on Tuipulotu, who at 21 years old is the youngest player on the roster.

"Just the mentality part. Being a dawg," Tuipulotu said of Mack's influence on him. "One thing about K-Mack that's new recently is that he's been talking a lot during the games, talking smack and getting hyped.

"That's something I didn't really see in the beginning of the season, but that's something I've been seeing lately," Tuipulotu added. "It's great, I think it fuels everybody up."

Check out the best photos from Khalil Mack's 6 sack, 23 tackle (19 solo), five tackle for loss, five quarterback hit effort that earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors.

Mack is currently tied for the third-most sacks in the league with 13.0, and the only player currently in double digits who is over the age of 30. He currently sits ninth in the NFL with 54 QB pressures, according to Next Gen Stats, and his 3.7-percent sack rate is tied for fifth-best in the NFL through Week 12.

He also remains 2.0 sacks away from his career-high mark of 15.0 and a single sack away from becoming the seventh player in NFL history to have 14.0 sacks in a season after the age of 32.

Mack joined Hall of Famer Kevin Greene this past Sunday as the second player to have a 12-sack season with three different franchises since individual sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

Then there's the Chargers single-season record of 17.0 sacks, shared by Shawne Merriman and Leslie O'Neal, that also remains in reach. Heck, perhaps even a 20.0-sack season from Mack is possible.

And even more accolades could be on the horizon, including a mammoth milestone of 100.0 career sacks.

Mack is currently sitting at 97.5 sacks for his career, meaning each game going forward is a chance for him to get to 100, a major benchmark for pass rushers that only 42 other players in NFL history have reached since it was named an official stat.

Getting to 100 sacks will be just another big milestone that shows Mack the results of the work he's been able to put in.

"I feel like that was a goal of mine coming into this," Mack said about the 100-sack mark. "I always said I wanted to play 10 good years in the NFL, high-level years in the NFL. Getting to that 100 mark means I was close to doing so. Getting that 100 is going to be good thing for myself and my family to experience. Just want to share it with them. Whatever comes with that, comes with it."

Mack later added: "I don't know if guys come in thinking about that, but I know once they hit it, it's definitely one of those things where it's like, 'Wow, it was attainable' and the hard work you put into it coming out here every day and grinding, the results, you show for it with those numbers."

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But Mack made sure to point out Thursday that getting to 100 and the success he's been able to have this season is a result of a team effort.

Whether it's him that gets the results or one of his teammates, the main goal will always remain for the veteran.

"This game, there's 11 guys on the field and in order to make those plays, get sacks or whatever the case may be, you have to have great teammates," Mack said before rattling off the names of nearly the entire Bolts front seven.

"Whether I'm the one receiving the benefit of getting a sack or whatever the case may be, I'll take it," Mack continued. "[Shoot], if it was anybody I would be just as excited for them. Ultimately, it's a team game, and I'm trying to win.

"That's all I really care about," Mack added. "Stats, whatever comes with it, comes with it, but I'm trying to win ballgames. I'm at that stage of my career where I want to [expletive] win. That's it."

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