Safety Xavier McKinney
Opening Statement: Before we start, I'm here to encourage the annual food drive with Stop & Shop to benefit Food Bank For New York City. From today through December 23rd, fans can make a donation when they order groceries online at StopandShop.com for pickup or delivery. I know we've got a lot of people in this area that are in need of food and different things, so for our Team of Teams that we have here, we've been assigned Staten Island as one of my groups. We're just trying to help everybody that we can here in the area as much as we can. Obviously, fortunately we're in a situation where we're able to do that. We're on a stage where we're able to do that, so whenever we have the chance to do stuff like this, it's obviously something that we love to do. Obviously, we take pride in it and just want to show people that we care, and that we want to help them in as many ways as possible as we can. Just wanted to say that today before we got started.
Q: What players you idolized growing up as a football player? Who did you model your game after?
A: I actually grew up watching (Former NFL Running Back) Shaun Alexander. I played running back a little bit when I was younger. I didn't really start playing safety until probably like high school, but once I got into it obviously started watching (Former NFL Safety) Troy Polamalu – that was my favorite safety – and then (Former NFL Safety) Ed Reed. Those were two of the guys that I looked up to.
Q: Was the move to safety hard to accept?
A: Yeah, it was a little bit. I think very few people know this, but going into my sophomore year of high school, I got moved up to varsity and I just realized that I didn't really want to get hit anymore (laughs). So, I wasn't mad at being switched to DB.
Q: You're a good tackler though.
A: Yeah. I'm a good tackler, but as far as getting hit I don't know how they do it offensively.
Q: You just want to see it coming.
A: Yeah, so I'd rather do the hitting than be hit.
Q: What's it been like lately for you? You've seen a lot of praise from people coming at you, saying, 'Look at him, he's doing great. He's a budding superstar,' which is a word that a bunch of your teammates have used. How do you take that all in?
A: Obviously, it's great to hear from my peers, my teammates, my coaches, but for me like I said from day one, I've just been trying to get out here and get better for them, be able to help us win games, put us in better situations defensively and as a team. I keep the same mindset every day. I don't really pay much attention to it. I know I've got to come out here and I can't do one thing one day and then the next day be terrible at it, so I know I've got to keep working, stay level-headed and make sure I just have my head down and just keep going and getting better.
Q: I think I've heard you talk big though. You want to be great.
A: Of course. That's no question. Obviously, I mentioned before, I know what I'm chasing. Obviously, I want to be great. That's why I come out here and play the game that I play today, that's why I do what I do. Obviously, yeah, I want to be great. There's no question about that.
Q: The first handful of games or so, you were almost getting there, you were close to making those big plays, but they just weren't happening. How much is the difference now you just playing faster and knowing what you're doing, or have you made other adjustments that have allowed you to?
A: Sticking to the script. I think the first time that I pretty much came out here this year when you all were asking about just losing games or whatever, I always pretty much said the same thing. We're going to come out here and we trust the plan and we're going to stick to the script. That's what I do as a player. Obviously, I wish I could have had the ones that I dropped. There's more that – even like last game, there's one that I dropped at the end. I wish I could have that, but it happened. I dropped it and I keep working. It is what it is. For me, I just keep working, coming out here, getting better. I know there are areas where I can improve, so come out here and just work on that. When the opportunity comes up the next time, then I make it.
Q: When you guys are in the defensive room and you hear that (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) is not going to play, do you guys go out there and say, 'It's on us this week,' or do you simply say we've just got to follow the game plan?
A: Every week we say it's on us. For us defensively, all of us pretty much have the same mindset. We came in this season with a lot of goals. There are some that we didn't hit, but we always go into the week saying it's on us. We want to play great defense, we don't want the offense to get into the end zone, we don't want them to score, so that's how we go into it and that's what we focus on.
Q: (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham was saying that you're a ball hawk. Obviously, as a safety it's clearly one of your strengths and he was saying some guys just kind of have that. It was interesting you were talking about being a running back. You'd think your background would be as a wide receiver, so why are you so good at being a 'ball hawk'?
A: I've just always been able to get to the ball. My instincts have always been really good, just trusting myself. That's always been really good and a strength of mine that I've had for a long time. Even when I was little or in high school, I always found the ball no matter what. It's been something that's obviously been a huge strength for me and played in my favor a lot. It's showing now, but I've always been that way.
Q: They caught you on Mic'd Up last week playing around with (Eagles Wide Receiver DeVonta Smith) Smitty and telling (Eagles Quarterback) Jalen (Hurts) to, 'Throw me one.' How much are you enjoying the idea of – and obviously you're crossing paths with (Dolphins Quarterback) Tua (Tagovailoa) – seeing guys who you played with and now you're on the other side of the ball kind of almost reminding people that, 'Hey, I'm right over here'?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. I think it's fun, obviously, playing against my old teammates, but they're not teammates anymore. Those guys are my opponents, I treat them as such. I don't play fair. I'm trying to win the game just how they are, so I don't expect them to make it easy for me and I'm not going to make it easy for them. That's how I see it and I attack it like that.
Q: With Tua, as well?
A: Yeah, of course.
Q: Did you used to pick Tua off a lot in practice?
A: Actually, it's a big one for me, this game, because I actually only picked him off one time over the course of the three years that we were there together, so he's tough. He's tough to get, but when you get one, you work really hard for that one that you got.
Q: Is he good with his eyes?
A: Yeah, he's good with his eyes. He's really good at being able to look you off. I think in that stage, the college stage, I was still obviously growing as a safety, especially in the backend part of it. But he's really good at being able to look you off and he sees different things. That's always been a challenge.
Q: How much were you there for (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson? You went through a very similar thing last year. When he was sitting out, were you kind of talking through it at all?
A: Yeah, of course. I was just kind of letting him know how he's just got to stick to the process. Obviously, it sucks to be out and having to rehab everyday kind of gets repetitive. But I always told him when he gets back, obviously, the opportunities are going to come, just got to take full advantage of them and make sure he's ready. During that time when he was hurt, just making sure that he was always paying attention to everything, all the details, making sure that he got everything. Even now with him going to corner, just making sure that he's straight on everything and making sure that there's no other confusion. If he does, then I always let him know, 'Just let me know. We'll talk about it.' Even after the Eagles game last week, we actually texted about some stuff the other day just kind of clearing some stuff up. Just staying on him and holding each other accountable for that.