Mekhi Becton has heard it his whole life — he is big, like really big.
There was a time when the Jets’ first-round pick did not embrace his size.
“I was definitely insecure growing up, being a bigger kid,” Becton said.
Growing up in Virginia, Becton said kids talked about him because he was bigger than normal. When he went swimming, he would wear a tank top because he was embarrassed by his size.
Now? That 6-foot-7, 370-pound frame has Jets coaches dreaming of what he can do and teammates marveling at what they are seeing on the practice field from the left tackle.
When you talk to anyone around the Jets about Becton, there is one word you always hear, “big,” and Becton is OK with that.
“I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been little,” said Becton, sounding a bit like Yogi Berra. “It’s nothing new to me. I’m used to it. I embrace it now. I like hearing that I’m big.”
The Jets, who took Becton No. 11 overall, can only hope that opponents walk away from games this year marveling at his size. Early in training camp, Becton has looked like a typical high draft choice. He has moments when he looks ready to play and others where you are reminded he still has a lot to learn.
Becton has impressed his coaches with how prepared he has been. With a lack of spring practice, all rookies have an additional hurdle to clear this year. The Jets did not get onto the practice field until Friday for a real football practice.
“He’s clearly hit the [play]book all summer long,” offensive line coach Frank Pollack said. “He left the spring in a good spot as far as understanding what we’re doing. He’s hit the ground running since he’s been here. Every time I’ve got a question for him in front of the guys, he’s hit it out of the park. He’s right on top of it. If he doesn’t know the answer, it’s like a five-second pause and then he turns the page to go right to the notes where he wrote it down.”
Becton has been working with the starters in training camp as the Jets try to get him ready to play for their Sept. 13 opener against the Bills.
“Now, it’s just getting him experience in reps out on the grass,” Pollack said. “You see a lot of different things and grow from that standpoint. Against our defense you’re getting a ton of variety of looks and getting a lot of good, teachable moments.”
Becton worked in the offseason with offensive line coach Duke Manyweather. He looks like he is in shape, but said he is working to lose weight still. He reported to training camp at 370 pounds after weighing 364 at the combine.
“This is definitely not the best shape I’ve been in. I’m 370 now,” Becton said. “I definitely want to get lower. I’m definitely still trying to get into my best shape.”
Pollack said the Jets need to strike a balance when it comes to Becton’s ideal weight. They want him to drop a few pounds so he’ll move better, but not so many that he loses any of his power.
“Is 370 too high? Yeah,” Pollack said. “Is there a magic number? We’re working on that. He’s learning. He’s a young guy. His body is going to mature and change over time.”
On Monday, Becton showed what he was capable of when he blocked linebacker Neville Hewitt and knocked him to the ground.
“It felt good,” Becton said of that hit. “It felt really good because I haven’t been able to do that in a while.”
The 21-year-old is getting used to life in the NFL, including being on the team with veteran stars like Le’Veon Bell and Frank Gore. Becton was asked if he has had any moments when it hit him that he is in the NFL with them as teammates.
“That’s every day, honestly,” Becton said. “I just look at those guys in awe. I’ve seen Frank Gore playing when I was growing up. It’s just great to be in the same room as him. It’s just amazing having those two guys behind me.”