He was a 6-foot-8, 348-pound tackle nicknamed Big Mac, and he was a first-round draft pick, which means he was Mekhi Becton before Mekhi Becton, and so Twitter users tagged Bryant McKinnie and suggested he watch the 6-foot-7, 370-pound tackle from Louisville who became the Jets’ first-round pick.
“I noticed that was a big guy who’s athletic with good feet,” McKinnie told The Post. “A lot of big guys don’t have great feet. He is able to move his feet. A coach always said to me back when I was in junior college, ‘Move your feet, you can’t get beat.’ The next thing I see was he’s actually physical, too.”
McKinnie was the seventh pick of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Vikings, and when his contentious 98-day holdout finally ended, when he suited up on Nov. 10, he learned quickly that blocking Giants and Packers and Bears and Lions was far different than blocking Scarlet Knights or Seminoles. McKinnie had not allowed a sack during his Miami (Fl.) days. Giants defensive end Kenny Holmes beat him for a sack in his debut.
“He’s gonna learn hand placement plays a big part,” McKinnie said. “With some people, I thought, ‘I’m gonna be able to overpower him.’ But it’s all about the hand placement. In some of these games, he’s gonna go against defensive ends who are gonna have great hand placement and he’s gonna feel like he’s gonna overpower them, and they’re actually gonna show him otherwise.”
Through a mutual friend, McKinnie spoke to Becton, the 11th pick, prior to the draft and wished him luck. The conversation was too brief for McKinnie to give the rookie the advice he has for him today:
“My message to him,” McKinnie said, “is to one, wear gloves. I wasn’t wearing gloves at the beginning. Two, I would always make sure he would know the game plan in and out so that you can play fast and even if you make a mistake, you’ll make a mistake going fast. Three, I would say find somebody who you can kinda like model yourself after as far as being a professional as far as taking care of your body. Try to be aware of the things you eat, ’cause a lot of the foods that you eat help fuel you and give you that good energy to go out there day in and day out. But definitely time to get massages on Fridays. Fridays was always my day to do like cold tub after practice, get a massage when I got home that night.”
Becton has been entrusted with protecting Sam Darnold’s blindside. There will be pressure on young Becton. McKinnie dealt with plenty of his own protecting Daunte Culpepper.
“I felt a little more pressure because of the fact that you had Korey Stringer, who passed away the year before, that played tackle for the Vikings, and he was really good and a veteran, and then I felt like they were looking at me to kinda come in and fill that void,” McKinnie said. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be a bust.’ You don’t want to let yourself down either.”
McKinnie alternated with veteran Everett Lindsay in his first NFL game and was starting by his second. It wasn’t as draining of a season as it will be for Becton.
“They talk about the rookie wall, I do think that it does happen,” McKinnie said.
McKinnie, who grew up in Woodbury, N.J., without a real NFL dream, enjoyed a 12-year career, made one Pro Bowl, won Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens, and enjoyed his fair share of pancake blocks. Which are as close as an offensive lineman will come to a sack for a defensive player.
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“Pretty much, but they get to do a little dance and all that stuff,” McKinnie said. “But like nobody really pays attention if I pancake somebody ’cause there’s a whole bunch of other stuff going on. If a defensive player sacks a quarterback, that stops the whole play.”
Still, it served a reminder of the way he was when intimidation was a Hurricane rite of autumn.
“I think a lot of people were intimidated from hearing they had to play against Miami,” McKinnie said. “Guys would always kinda give you the most they had within that first quarter, quarter-and-a-half, then after a while they would kinda feel defeated. And once they felt defeated, it’s like I’m really gonna pour it on now.”
Becton prided himself on finishing his blocks last season. Asked if Becton reminded him of himself when he watched him, McKinnie said: “He did. He probably had a little bit more energy than me because I would conserve my energy for each play.”
McKinnie was one of 17 Vikings involved in an infamous 2005 Love Boat sex party scandal. He eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and being a public nuisance and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and perform 48 hours of community service. More advice now for Becton: “If you’re gonna do it, be smart about it. Definitely sign NDAs [Non-disclosure agreements),” McKinnie said, and laughed.
No one is expecting Becton to rock the boat with the seas as stormy as they will be at the start of his NFL career.
“You’re taking in everything, you’re taking in a new environment, you’re taking in new coaching, new teammates, the plays. … It’s a lot coming at you at one time,” McKinnie said. “Once you get acclimated to everything and everyone, after the third or fourth game, things should start to slow down.”
Big Mac is excited to see Big Mek play and will be rooting for him.
“I always cheer for like the big guys,” he said. “We’re like the motor. We have to crank up first in order for the car to run. The quarterback is the driver, the receivers and running back are like the wheels, but without that motor cranking up, you ain’t going nowhere.”
Start cranking, Mekhi Becton.
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