The New York Giants defense collapses, and safety Xavier McKinney moves to his assigned place in the formation, his eyes never leaving the other side of the field.
With shifts and moves designed to confuse defense, McKinney must, for the first time in his fledgling NFL career, ensure all of his defensive teammates are in the right position to counter any diabolical strategy the offense has planned.
As he stares at what is unfolding in front of him, the image begins to crystallize for 22-year-old McKinney as he processes the shapes, angles and other geometric signs of alignment that provide clues as to how to make a defensive stop got to.
This is how McKinney’s mind has worked on the football field ever since he was in Alabama. So it came as no surprise to learn that McKinney, who has tried dissecting Xs and Os as it evolves into an art form, has a passion for a different type of art that he pursues in his free time.
McKinney is an aspiring illustrator and graphic designer who also has an eye for fashion. He first developed his passion for art during high school, when he filled his free time with putting his ideas on paper.
When McKinney decided to get tattoos, McKinney took the initiative in recognition of his uniqueness as an individual, rather than choosing designs from a catalog. So far he has designed all but one of his various body art pieces.
“I’ve always been a visionary,” McKinney said land of giants in this week. “I’ve always been a person who has a whole range of thoughts – lots of different experiences that I’ve had throughout my life growing up. So that’s where they came from, and I’m proud to be a creator.”
McKinney had originally hoped to major in art in Alabama, but scheduling conflicts with classes and soccer practice saw him head in a different direction. He considered minoring in art, but in the end he realized he could still work at the craft as his schedule permitted while optimizing his opportunities to pursue a football career in Alabama.
His favorite tattoo is the design on his back that pays homage to his time on the Crimson Tide.
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“It was something that meant a lot to me,” McKinney said of his college experience, which he was only too happy to immortalize permanently on his body. “Alabama was a place where I started my college career. It was something that really shaped me into the man I am today and I’m really grateful.”
Originally, McKinney had a different design concept in mind for the art, but after sketching it, he changed it.
“When I started building it, I had the whole stadium — the lights and everything,” he said. “I changed it up a bit just because I felt like the stadium would have been a whole bunch and I replaced that with the elephant and things like that. It was great to start the process of just creating this piece. That was fun.”
When McKinney found out he was moving to New York, he was thrilled to not only be able to pursue his NFL dream with one of the league’s oldest franchises, but also be so close to the myriad of museums and art galleries and one of the largest fashion markets in New York to be the world. Whenever he has free time, he goes to a museum or art gallery to get inspiration and admire the different methods used to create timeless works of art.
He’s also been working on a concept for a future piece of body art to honor his new chapter in New York, something he’s expected to complete next off-season. And he is currently expanding his contacts in the fashion world, because he aspires to one day have his own clothing line.
For now, McKinney is fully focused on football, where starting this year he will apply his ability to understand shapes, figures and alignments on the griddle to making smart decisions aimed at helping the Giants defense create a masterpiece will.
“I think it correlates very well,” McKinney said of his drawing and football. “Like I said, I’m a visionary, so I see different possibilities that could happen based on our plans, just with different outcomes.
“I’ll be in the briefing room and I’ll always be like, ‘Well, what if they do that?’ So I think that helps with the football aspect – and it pretty much is, it’s always been for me.
Listen to the entire interview with Xavier McKinney on the LockedOn Giants Podcast.