Giants safety Xavier McKinney tackles Q&A from Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: How would you describe the transformation from off the field to on it?
A: It’s kind of like how my hair is, I think that’s a big factor of why it’s half-and-half. I got two different personalities where I could be a really cool guy, I’m a really nice guy off the field, I’m very approachable, open-minded to different things. But then, I also got the blond side, the crazy side of me where when I get out there on the field, I have no friends, I’m not there to make friends, I’m there to be great. I know the objective, I know the goal, and the goal for me is to, at the end of the journey, to obtain that gold jacket. That’s what I’m chasing, and that’s how I see it each and every time I step out there onto the field, and I keep that mindset with me. I’m just a true competitor, that’s just who I am and that’s who I’ve been my entire life.
Q: What drives you?
A: Just wanting to be great, man. I had to ask myself what’s driving me now because I’m here now, so it’s kind of like, now what? But for me, it’s just wanting to be great, wanting to be one of the best to ever do it at my position, and like I said, chasing that gold jacket, that’s something that’s super-big for me. I couldn’t even stress the importance of getting there. I know it’s gonna take a lot, but I’m prepared for that journey.
Q: Describe your trials and tribulations.
A: Going to ’Bama, things didn’t start off how I wanted it to start off. My freshman year I didn’t play as much as I thought I was going to. Other things in my life that I had to deal with throughout the course of getting to that point, and then obviously, going to the combine and didn’t have the greatest combine, ran a 4.6, caught cramps doing that, and then didn’t do any drills. And then, thought I was gonna go first round, thought I shoulda went first round, ended up going second round. … I actually remember after that first day of the draft, that same night actually got on my iPad and I watched film of myself, I self-scouted myself, and I had like pages of notes of where I felt like why I didn’t get drafted in the first round, so just basically pages of criticism from me, just writing down where I need to improve on. A lot of different things that made it a hard road to get to this point.
Q: What are your favorite motivational sayings?
A: Nobody cares, just work. That’s what I’ve used since I was in high school. I didn’t get recruited really heavy at first, so all I knew was put my head down and work, don’t worry about what other people around me are doing, just worry about yourself, worry about getting better and improving.
Q:. Why is playing in New York the perfect spot for you?
A: Obviously, off the field, all the different opportunities that there are here, obviously it’s the fashion capital so that really helps, too. I think on the field, it’s the perfect spot, the organization is great, they kind of carry that mentality of what I’m used to as far as how it was at ’Bama. They never let you settle with just being good, they always want you to be great, no matter what. That’s also something that really helps me along the way is just not having that complacency and making sure that all the coaches are on me, all the staff is on me, the players, so just having that mentality here really helps me as a person, helps me as a player for sure.
Q: If you could intercept any quarterback in the history of the NFL, who would it be?
A: I’ll probably have to say Tom Brady. He’s been playing for a really long time, he’s obviously the GOAT, what many people consider the GOAT, what I consider the GOAT. Last year I didn’t get a chance to face him, I was hurt, but I get to play him again this year, so be looking forward to the challenge, that matchup.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any defensive back or any defensive player in NFL history?
A: That’s easy, Ed Reed. Somebody that I watch all the time, I watch his highlights, just try to get a feel for whatever he was feeling, and try to see how he played his game. Obviously he had a lot of picks, he had a lot of yards after his picks, so just a true playmaker, somebody I like to study and try to pick some of his game and put it into mine.
Q: How would you describe your fashion style?
A: I would say I’m very into fashion. It helps me explain kind of who I am as a person, it explains my personality. I’m not afraid to go out of the box, wear anything different, and it just gives me a chance to express myself how I would like for everyone to see me. I try to wear something better each and every week and just try to test myself to see where I can push the limits to getting me out of my comfort level.
Q: So when it comes to fashion and on the football field, you dare to be great?
A: Yeah (chuckle), that’s a very true statement, man. On and off the field, I always challenge myself to different things, stuff where I know where I need to improve. I like to challenge myself and try to be great in that area, that’s just kind of how I’ve always been built, it’s how I’ve been taught growing up.
Q: Have you gotten an update on Dexter Lawrence’s Dexxywear?
A: I’ve talked to him a little bit about it, he’s definitely gonna try to get me some apparel here. I told him I was gonna rock some of it to a Sunday game, or a prime-time game I should say.
Q: What did you think of Daniel Jones’ one-handed catch?
A: First thing, I thought was OBJ [Odell Beckham Jr.]. … He really concentrated on that one. I would have loved to see a little celebration after it (chuckle), but he didn’t do much after.
Q: Describe his off-the-field leadership.
A: He’s one of those guys where he always makes sure the team is intact, to make sure we’re all on the same page. Anytime we have any team meetings or anything, he always just kind of lets us know that we’re all in this together. If you’re having a bad game or you’re having a good game, he’s always out there just kind of giving words of encouragement and still fighting through that adversity whenever the time comes.
Q: What’s the best speech you’ve heard Logan Ryan give?
A: It’s hard to pinpoint any one, but I’ve also had talks with him about being that player that I’m trying to get to, and he’s actually given me a lot of words of wisdom. Obviously he’s been there, he’s won Super Bowls, so he knows what it takes to get there. Just giving me challenges each and every day, challenging me to be great. Whether that’s if we’re playing another secondary or other safeties in a game, he challenges me to go out there and be the best one out there on the field.
Q: Safety Tyrann Mathieu, aka the Honey Badger, will be on the opposing sideline for the Chiefs on Monday night.
A: That’s a great challenge. I’ll definitely be prepared to go out there and see him and then be able to be the best safety out there on the field on Monday night. But he’s also another one of the great safeties that I’ve watched plenty of times. I can’t tell you how many times I watched his college tape.
Q: Why are Giants fans so intrigued by Kadarius Toney?
A: ’Cause he can throw 65 yards standing still, I think that’s the biggest reason why (laugh). But he’s one of those guys, he’s electric, man. He can make plays anywhere — he can catch it out of the backfield, he can get a handoff, he can run a route, he can juke all 11 of your defenders — so he’s one of those guys that’s really fun to watch.
Q: What is it like playing behind Leonard Williams?
A: From last year a lot of people were hype for my first pick [Week 17 versus the Cowboys], but the reason why I even got that pick in the first place was actually him. He actually caused disruption on that play, he got to the quarterback [Andy Dalton] and the quarterback threw a bad pass and it got intercepted.
Q: What have you noticed about Azeez Ojulari?
A: I notice that he’s gonna get to the quarterback too (chuckle), so that really makes me happy ’cause if I see a bad throw, then I’m definitely smiling, I’m trying to get the ball.
Q: Describe defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
A: He’s not afraid to listen to his players. He’s one of those guys that’s not a big ego guy. If there’s something that he could do better, he’s always all ears, he’s willing to listen and he’s willing to change for the betterment of the team, betterment of the defense. That’s what I really love about him. He’s also one of those guys that’s all about work, he’s not much about talk, and that’s something that gets us fired up and gets us ready and prepared to play.
Q: What is the best throw you’ve seen Patrick Mahomes make?
A: Can’t really pinpoint one pass, but I know he has a lot of great ones.
Q: What is the difference in defending Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill?
A: Tyreek is a super-fast guy, you gotta be more patient with him. Obviously it’s two different type of skill sets. One guy is really fast, and he could beat you in a heartbeat just by running, and Kelce, he’s really savvy, he’s not as fast, but he can run and he knows how to get open.
Q: Would you be disappointed if the Dolphins gave up on former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa in a trade for Deshaun Watson?
A: I really would, man. Tua really doesn’t get a lot of credit throughout his career, even college career … as much as he got, it wasn’t enough to me. I feel like he changed the game of college football. … I would definitely be disappointed, he’s one of those guys that he’s gonna get the job done, so I don’t think they should give up on him this early.
Q: Are you surprised at what former Alabama teammate Mac Jones has shown so far?
A: No, I’m not. I used to go against Mac every day. Obviously he was on the scout team. I saw his development, he was never one of those guys that got complacent, he was always trying to get better. I remember our freshman year, we weren’t roommates, but I was in the room with him, and while everybody was doing what they were doing, he was sitting on the couch studying plays, and I always remember that moment, so I’m really not surprised by what he’s done and what he’s gonna do.
Q: Whatever comes to mind: Jaylen Waddle?
A: Fast and explosive.
Q: DeVonta Smith?
A: Sticky hands … decisive route-runner … fast.
Q: Henry Ruggs III?
Q: Jerry Jeudy?
A: Fast … route-running is amazing.
Q: Describe the time you met Kobe Bryant at Alabama.
A: That time was really special, man. Obviously he’s one of the all-time greats, and I love basketball so I watch a lot of basketball. He has a great mind, great mindset, and just getting a good feel of who he was as a person, just explaining it, getting the opportunity to actually pick his brain and see how he was as a competitor and what his thoughts kind of were going into practices, going into games. That’s something I cherish forever. I actually asked him a question that day of how he prepares, how he studies film, and he just let me know a lot of great things of different factors of watching film and getting one up on the opponent just by body language. It was something that I’ll never forget. RIP to Kobe. He really helped me build as a player and as a person when I got to listen to him.
Q: Describe rooting for the Islanders in last year’s playoffs.
A: When I went in the arena, it was like super-cold, I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold, but then I realized all we were around was ice, so I should have known it was probably gonna be cold, but I’m glad I brought a jacket with me, but it was definitely fun.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Floyd [Mayweather], LeBron [James]. … I know you said other sports, but football I would say Malcolm Jenkins as far as the stuff that he does off the field, I think it’s really inspirational for me. He definitely is helping lead the way. Another guy is [Colin] Kaepernick, another guy for me that is just helping lead the way.
Q: Two dinner guests?
A: Tupac, Jay-Z.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Back to the Future.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Nia Long.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Young Thug.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: I’m a picky eater, so I do not have a favorite meal.
Q: Describe your older brother Brandon.
A: He’s led the way for me as far as helping me grow up, helping me just learning what life is really all about. We’ve been through a lot of hard things in our lives that we’ve dealt with together. We’ve bumped heads before, but he’s like my best friend, talk to him about pretty much anything, we talk about pretty much everything.
Q: Tell me about your favorite Halloween.
A: One of my friends where I lived in Marietta [Ga.] had a party, I was dressed up as a football player, so all my life for Halloween I’ve dressed up basically as myself as a football player, and had my pads and my helmet on and running around just running around and trick-or-treating with my friends.
Q: Do you have a message to fans about Xavier McKinney and the Giants?
A: For me, I would just say, just stay tuned. And then for the Giants, I would really say the same thing. The only thing we could do is keep trying to get better and keep improving no matter how we’re doing. That’s what all life is really about. Obviously it don’t matter what profession you’re in, everything isn’t gonna be perfect all the time.