FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — There’s one small word everyone uses — without fail — when they’re asked to describe Mekhi Becton.
When you’re 6-foot-7, you inevitably stand out. Add in the fact the New York Jets rookie offensive tackle is a whopping 370 pounds, and well, it’s tough to not overuse that particular adjective.
“Becton’s a big guy,” quarterback Sam Darnold said. “A freak athlete and obviously a large human.”
“Big as …,” running back Frank Gore added while mouthing an expletive with a grin.
“That’s a big man protecting our quarterback,” coach Adam Gase said, “and I’m glad he’s here.”
You get the jumbo-sized picture. And, don’t worry. Becton knows exactly what people are saying.
“I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been little,” Becton said Tuesday, suggesting there was a time he was actually small. “It’s nothing new to me. I’m used to it. I embrace it now.
“I like hearing that I’m big.”
That wasn’t always the case. Not when he towered over his schoolmates as a youngster in Highland Springs, Virginia. He was teased and made fun of, an easy target because of his size.
“I was definitely insecure growing up, being a bigger kid,” Becton said. “I’m bigger than normal.”
He recalls kids’ snide remarks and always feeling the need to wearing a tank top or shirt to the pool instead of going shirtless — which he now does. No matter what anyone else thinks.
“That’s what I mean by insecure,” Becton said. “But I fully embrace it now.”
He’s having the last laugh, anyway. Becton developed into a star on the football field in high school and became one of college football’s best offensive linemen at Louisville.
The Jets made him the No. 11 overall pick in the NFL draft in April. And, now, he’s turning heads on the practice field with his athleticism and abilities, and not just for how he looks.
“You rarely see a 370-pound guy move the way he does,” Gase said. “It’s hard to explain what it feels like when you’re standing next to him. When you get next to him, that’s when you realize how big this guy is. When other players are talking about his size, his length, his strength, that’s when you know it’s real.
“You know it’s not something that a coach or scout is just talking about just because a height, weight, speed, measurable-type thing. He applies it to the field.”
Gase insisted Becton has shown no signs of “swimming” early in camp or having trouble adjusting to the speed of the game at this level or the intricacies of the playbook.
In the best-case scenario, Becton will open the season as the Jets’ left tackle. One thing Becton wants to do is actually shed a few pounds before Week 1. He’s listed at 363, but acknowledged he’s at 370.
“Is 370 too high? Yeah,” offensive line coach Frank Pollack said. “But is there a magic number? We’re working on that. He’s a young guy. He’s probably going to mature over time. The bottom line is production on the field and what’s the healthiest for him.”
Becton has already made his presence known in camp. He had his first few pancake blocks during New York’s first padded practice Monday, flattening linebackers Neville Hewitt and Blake Cashman.
“He’s going to be somebody that’s going to play a long time in this league and has more potential to grow,” Cashman said. “I had to come down and take him on one on one, and let’s just say that didn’t go well for me.”
But for Becton, it went all according to plan.
“It felt good,” Becton said with a wide smile. “That’s what I would say. It felt really good. I’ve been waiting for that for a while.”
Gore has been impressed by Becton’s confident approach. The 37-year-old running back is entering his 16th NFL season and knows what a good offensive lineman looks and sounds like.
“He was talking to me out there and saying, ‘I’m going to get you 4 yards,’ and I like that,'” Gore said. “He can move. I watched him when he got drafted, and watching him play basketball and watching him slam guys into the ground. Even out here, he’s moving pretty well.
“To be that big, that’s crazy.”
Yep, there’s that word again.
He might also already have a cool nickname, courtesy of guard Alex Lewis — who’s hardly a small guy himself at 6-6 and 305 pounds.
“I call that rookie The Great Wall of Green,” Lewis said with a laugh. “He’s massive.”
And so are the expectations.
Gase compared Becton’s skill set and athleticism to Pro Bowl left Laremy Tunsil, who he coached three years in Miami. That might be a bit of a stretch at the moment, especially when he’s still a month away from taking a real snap in an NFL game and there’s usually a period of transition for young left tackles.
“It’s a whole lot faster,” Becton said of the NFL. “But once I get my technique down and the plays, it’s definitely going to slow down for me.”
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