McKinnie Wants Perfect End To Perfect Career

Dec. 31, 2001

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Every once in a while, it happens, and it even catchesBryant McKinnie by surprise.

A defensive end times the snap perfectly, McKinnie gets a slow jump off theball and it looks as if Ken Dorsey will get sacked. But then McKinnie justslides to the left, throws up his arms and rides the defender past thequarterback.

Dorsey stays on his feet, and McKinnie preserves his perfect pass-blockingrecord.

It’s that easy for Miami’s All-American left tackle. McKinnie, a 6-foot-9,335-pound senior who didn’t start playing football until his junior year inhigh school, has not given up a sack. Not this season. Not last year. Not intwo seasons at junior college. Not in a scrimmage or a practice, either.


He hopes to keep the streak intact against No. 4 Nebraska in the Rose Bowlon Thursday. It will be McKinnie’s final college game before becoming one ofthe top picks in the first round of the NFL draft.

A Miami victory would be the perfect ending to McKinnie’s improbable rise.

“That would really be special,” he said. “Most people just dream ofchampionships. We’ve got a chance to win one and make it a reality.”

The Hurricanes’ massive offensive line should play an important role againstthe Cornhuskers. The unit has given up just four sacks this season, two onDorsey, and has been the key to success both passing and running.

“It’s a situation where each and every one of us up front defensively isgoing to have our hands full,” Nebraska’s Chris Kelsay said.

The toughest challenge will be getting past McKinnie, whose long arms andquick feet make it difficult for defenders to get around him. Teammate MattWalters faces McKinnie every week and says no single move seems to worktwice.

“The only way to beat Big Mac is to set him up with the same move over andover again, then come at him with something different and try to catch himoff guard,” Walters said. “If that doesn’t work, then you better hope hetrips and falls.”

So what would it take to beat McKinnie?

“You would need Reggie White’s strength and Jevon Kearse’s speed,” Walterssaid. “Even then, it would be a good matchup.”

McKinnie has dominated his biggest matchups. He held Florida State’s JamalReynolds without a tackle last year and shut down Florida’s Alex Brown inthe Sugar Bowl.

He did the same thing this season to Syracuse’s Dwight Freeney, the NCAA’sall-time sack leader.

“I’ve never had anybody even close to him,” said Art Kehoe, the Hurricanes’line coach the last 17 years. “You may be looking at a guy that’s like theprototype in the year 2050. He’s 6-foot-10, 340 pounds and runs 5 (seconds)flat (in the 40-yard dash) and vertical jumps 32 inches.

“And when you challenge him like this in a big game or put a guy against himthat you say can beat him, that’s when he’s really at his best. He’s aninteresting character, really quiet. But if he’s challenged, he’s ornery anda pretty impressive guy.”

McKinnie was 130 pounds in third grade, about 40 pounds heavier than otherboys his age. He was too big to play football, exceeding the weight limitimposed by his league in Woodbury, N.J.

“It was never really an issue for me,” he said.

Instead, McKinnie just wrestled and played basketball. Both sports – as wellas a short stint in aerobics class – helped him develop his footwork.

He played two years of basketball in high school, continuing to grow to thepoint where his coaches and father thought he might be better suited to playfootball.

So in 11th grade – after spending two fall seasons playing the bass drum inthe school band – McKinnie joined the football team.

He made an instant impact.

McKinnie was a standout defensive lineman as a junior and senior. He signedwith Iowa in 1997.

But he was academically ineligible to attend Iowa, so McKinnie enrolled atLackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pa. He was quickly moved to offense,where he excelled at pass blocking.

“If you move your feet, you can’t get beat,” his coaches told him. It’s amotto that sticks with him every time he takes the field.

McKinnie didn’t allow a sack as a two-year starter at Lackawanna. Kehoecalled all across the country looking for a left tackle in 1998 and says theHurricanes were lucky to find McKinnie.

“I looked at about three series and said, ‘Send this freak to me,”‘ Kehoerecalled. “Then he came walking out. It was like Lurch. He has size 18 shoesand his hands are like catcher’s mitts and I’m like, ‘Wow.”‘

McKinnie had been wowing his coaches since.

This season, he finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting, a rare featfor an offensive linemen. “That was a big shock to me,” he said.

About as shocking as a pass rusher actually getting past McKinnie.

“We’re going against Godzilla,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohlsaid. “He’s a scary guy to try to get around. He’s got good feet. You moveand he’s still there and you move and he’s still there.”