He had planned on wearing No. 77, just like big brother does, but there will be no football season at John Rolfe Middle School in Richmond, Va., thanks to the pandemic.
But at least Michael Becton will get the chance to witness the beginning of big brother Mekhi’s NFL dream as blindside bodyguard for Sam Darnold, and road grader for Le’Veon Bell and Frank Gore, as Michael lives out his own dream of one day growing up to play against big brother.
“He’s always been dominant,” Michael Becton said. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be good in the NFL.”
Now, I don’t make a habit out of interviewing 13-year-olds, but because he and Mekhi are so close, I was interested as long, of course, as their mother, Semone, and father, Jerome, would consent to it.
So I tell Michael Becton how Jets GM Joe Douglas made a promise before the NFL draft to Sam Darnold’s parents that Mekhi would protect him, and the boy says: “He kept his promise.”
I didn’t ask, and I doubt Michael has been on the phone with Darnold, but Michael seems to have an idea about the quarterback’s emotions now that he has a 6-foot-7, 370-pound wall in front of him.
“He’s real excited now that he’s got I think like the best rookie blocker in the NFL,” Michael Becton says.
Michael plays on both lines but is primarily a defensive tackle. I kiddingly ask him if he has tried a bull rush on big brother.
“Naaah, I don’t want to try that,” he says.
How tall are you?
“I’m 5-5, 5-6.”
What do you weigh?
Mekhi was taller at the same stage.
“Yeah,” Michael says, “I’m kind of short.”
I assure him he will grow.
“I might not be able to get up there,” Michael says, “but I want to be bigger and better.”
I tell him smaller and better would be good, too.
Michael’s big dream: Michael versus Mekhi.
“That would be an absolute dream come true!” Michael says. “I admire, love and respect him so much. To have the opportunity to one day be able to play against him … man … now that would be wild!”
Michael has gotten pointers on his stance from Mekhi, but he prefers defense.
“You get to hit people,” he says.
Mekhi has not cornered the family market on intimidation on the football field.
“They always run away from me, or just kind of like, they look scared,” Michael says.
Michael watched Mekhi play at Highland Springs High School, and then get the NFL scouts drooling at Louisville.
“It was cool, it was fun, [to] see him dominate people,” Michael says.
Watching his big brother field that draft night call at home from the Jets was something else.
“It was shocking,” Michael says.
Until his phone just broke, Michael had been talking to Mekhi almost every day. Mekhi sounded happy to him.
“The facility’s nice, and he’s at work a lot,” Michael said. “It’s fun working with vets and stuff.”
Michael describes Mekhi this way: “Humble, respectful, caring, loving.”
And also this way: “He’s funny. … He’ll tell funny jokes … just goofy.”
“He acts silly and stuff.”
He acts younger than he is, is that it?
“No. He’s just playful.”
They won’t get to go to the arcade together for a while.
“I miss him a lot,” Michael says.
As Mekhi begins a new chapter in his life, Michael will be in the midst of nine weeks of online classes at school. The best advice Mekhi has given him?
“ ‘Do well at school,’ ” Michael says. “ ‘Be a student first and an athlete second.’ ”
Why is Mekhi an inspiration to him?
“Because he was doing stuff right.”
As long as Mekhi can continue doing stuff right, Darnold will benefit.
“He’s a gunslinger,” Michael says.
And Bell will benefit.
“He’s a very talented running back,” Michael says. “He’s always been good. Played for the Steelers.”
What would Michael tell Jets fans about his big brother?
“I think he’ll be the best. Make the Pro Bowl,” Michael says.
You must be proud of him. “Very proud.”
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