Xavier McKinney on why he came to Alabama: “I grew up fast here. It made me a better person”

Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest recruiting tools Nick Saban has, aside from having players get drafted, is seeing individuals talk on their experience at the University of Alabama. Xavier McKinney, former Crimson Tide safety, spoke on Monday about how the program made him better. 

A native Georgian, he arrived in the Tide’s 2017 recruiting class as a four-star. 

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He took notes from leaders such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Levi Wallace and Deionte Thompson. McKinney observed the quartet of young men navigate Alabama’s secondary to a national championship.

In the following season, McKinney became a starter at strong safety and totaled 74 tackles – including six tackles for loss with 3.5 sacks.

He also recorded two quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, 10 breakups and two interceptions. 

McKinney helped the Tide win a Southeastern Conference title and put it back into the College Football Playoff, despite a loss to Clemson in the title game. As a junior, he was the undisputed leader of the defense with 95 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, five quarterback hurries, five pass breakups and three picks. Injuries and a lack of communication kept Alabama from winning a conference title and it missed the CFP last season for the first time since 2014. 

He was voted a permanent team captain by his peers at the end of the season and the New York Giants selected him at No. 36 overall in the NFL Draft. Throughout his three years under Saban, McKinney said Alabama made him more disciplined both on and off the field. 

“I grew up fast here,” McKinney said. “Especially with Coach Saban teaching me and helping me learn. I thought I had good academic support. So, from the time that I came in and the time I came on my visit, that was always preached to me. I got the fullest extent of that and I reached my full potential at Alabama.” 

He got an opportunity to be part of a national championship team, an SEC title squad and was the leader on the Tide’s twelfth 10-win campaign of the Saban era. McKinney is now on a franchise with Alabama ties. He’s joined forces with former defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and his head coach, Joe Judge, was a special teams assistant from 2009-11 under Saban.   

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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