The New York Giants defensive huddle breaks and safety Xavier McKinney moves to his assigned spot in the lineup, his eyes never leaving the other side of the field.
With changes and moves designed to confuse the defense, McKinney, for the first time in his young NFL career, is tasked with making sure all of his defensive teammates are in the right position to counter any diabolical strategy the attack planned.
As he watches what unfolds before him, the picture begins to clear for McKinney, 22, as he processes the shapes, angles and other geometric signs of alignment that offer clues about the way he has to make a defensive save.
That’s how McKinney’s mind worked on the football field, dating back to his days in Alabama. So it was no surprise to learn that McKinney, who tried to dissect the Xs and O’s as they unfold into an art form, has a passion for a different kind of art he pursues in his spare time.
McKinney is an aspiring illustrator and graphic designer who also has an eye for fashion. He first developed this passion for art in high school as he spent his free time putting his ideas down on paper.
When McKinney decided to start getting tattoos, instead of choosing designs from a catalog, McKinney, recognizing his uniqueness as an individual, took the initiative. So far he has designed all but one of his body art pieces.
“I’ve always been a visionary,” McKinney said Land of the Giants this week. “I’ve always been a person who has a whole bunch of thoughts – a lot of different experiences that I’ve had throughout my life growing up. So that’s where they come from, and I’m proud to be a creator.”
McKinney originally hoped to major in art in Alabama, but due to scheduling conflicts with classes and football practices, he went in a different direction. He considered minoring in art, but in the end realized he could still work that craft if his schedule allowed while maximizing his opportunities to pursue a football career in Alabama.
Her favorite tattoo is the design on her back that pays homage to her time with the Crimson Tide.
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“It was something that meant a lot to me,” McKinney said of his college experience that he was only too happy to have permanently immortalized on his body. “Alabama was a place where I started my college career. It’s something that really shaped me into the man I am today, and I’m really grateful for that.”
Initially, McKinney had a different design concept in mind for the art, but after sketching it out, he changed it.
“When I started creating it, I had the whole stadium – the lights and everything,” he said. “I changed it a bit just because I felt like the stadium would have been a whole bunch, and replaced it with the elephant and stuff like that. It was great to start the process creating this piece. It was fun.”
When McKinney learned he was headed to New York, he was thrilled not only to pursue his NFL dream with one of the league’s oldest franchises, but also to be so close to the countless museums and galleries in art and one of the largest fashion markets in the world. Whenever he has free time, he goes to a museum or an art gallery to find inspiration and admire the different methods used to create timeless works of art.
He also worked on a concept for a future piece of body art to honor his new chapter in New York, something he plans to complete next offseason. And he is currently building his contacts in the fashion world, as he aspires to one day have his own fashion line.
McKinney is currently focused entirely on football, where starting this year he will apply his ability to make sense of shapes, tricks and lineups on the gridiron to smart calls aimed at helping the defense of Giants to become a masterpiece.
“I think it’s very correlated,” McKinney said of his drawing and his football. “Like I said, I’m a visionary, so I see different possibilities that could happen depending on what we’ve planned, just having different outcomes.
“I’ll be in the meeting room and I’ll always be like, ‘Well, what if they do this?’ So I think that helps with the footballing aspect – and that’s pretty much how it has always been for me.”
Listen to the full interview with Xavier McKinney on the LockedOn Giants podcast.