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The first thing you have to talk about when the topic is Bryant McKinnie is his size. He is a walking/talking high rise. The Dolphins’ starting left tackle was sitting down as I spoke to him last week in the locker room. I was standing up. No exaggeration, but it seemed like we were looking at each other eye-to-eye.
I asked him how deals with packed airplanes. “Always like first class,” he said. “If I’m not in first class, they usually take one look at me and move me there.”
I asked him about his clothes. “I have to find a special store,” he said. “Just found one actually down here. I do the best I can.”
His sport coat size? “I can’t recall,” he said, “but I know it’s a big number.”
His appetite? “It’s not like I can sit down and in one meal consume all sorts of food,” he said. “But if I’m really hungry, I can eat most of the day.”
Go through this history of the Miami Dolphins, which now spans 47 years, and you won’t find a player that stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 360 pounds. You won’t find another Bryant McKinnie.
Sure, there were players who weighed more, players more chiseled. Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener was a huge man. So was Tim Bowens. Jake Long wasn’t exactly a small fry. But when you combine the height and the weight, McKinnie clearly stands alone as the largest man to ever wear the Dolphin colors.
“It was in the ninth grade,” McKinnie recalls. “I grew three inches and I think I gained 70 pounds. From then on, I was always the biggest.”
When he first arrived at the University of Miami back in 1999, McKinnie still wasn’t as big as he is now.
“Here, look at my freshman picture,” he says, pulling out his cell phone. “Look how small I was back then.”
He weighed 330 pounds at the time. “Still had more growing to do,” he said.
This is the story of a player who has everything, but now wants a little bit more. Was a first-team All-American at the University of Miami. Won the Outland Trophy. Celebrated a national championship in 2001. Selected seventh overall in the 2002 draft by the Vikings. Been to Pro Bowls. Has a Super Bowl ring.
So then why after the Baltimore Ravens decided earlier this season than he was no longer the right fit, why after putting his enormous body through 12 grueling seasons, did he just not walk away from the game with those trophies, those honors and those two championship rings?
Because Bryant McKinnie – pun intended – is still hungry. He was thrilled when he learned about the trade to the Dolphins. It was his old stomping ground. When he was at the University of Miami, he remembers telling safety Ed Reed, “Someday I want to play for the Dolphins.”
Someday has arrived. The Dolphins were in desperate need of help on the offensive line. McKinnie was available. The Dolphins felt there was tread left on those 34-year-old tires and necessity called.
“I still believe I can play at a high level,” McKinnie said, sitting by his locker. “I feel like I’m still one of the top tackles in this league and I try to go out there and prove it every week.”
McKinnie is still getting used to the Dolphins schemes and terminology. He is still getting to know his teammates. “Truthfully,” he said. “I’m not sure I know all the coaches’ names yet.”
But that hasn’t stopped him from playing every game, every down. “I can make a difference here,” he said. “I know I can.”
And McKinnie doesn’t want this to be a one and done. In fact, the 12-year-veteran has a clear vision of how long he wants to play.
I like his chances. Would you want to be the one to tell him he can’t?
On Thursday, AC in the AM takes a look at an interesting pattern in Dolphins games this season.
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