FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- As a kid, New York Jets offensive lineman Mekhi Becton was self-conscious about his size. When he went swimming, he liked to wear a tank top to cover his massive torso. He felt the stares. He heard the whispers.
"I was definitely insecure growing up," the Jets' 2020 first-round draft pick said. "I was always getting talked about because I'm the bigger kid, bigger than normal. It is what it is. I'm glad I embrace it now."
Becton is proud of his body, and why shouldn't he be?
He parlayed his prodigious girth and athletic skill into a successful college career at Louisville and then a lucrative pro career with the Jets, signing a contract with $18.4 million guaranteed over the next four years. Listed at 6-foot-7, 363 pounds (in reality, he's 370), his job is to protect Jets quarterback Sam Darnold's blind side and blast open holes for running back Le'Veon Bell. He's had only a few practices, but he already has generated plenty of buzz in training camp.
Mention Becton's name to a coach or a teammate, and the usual response is a smile and a shake of the head. Teammates marvel at his size, and that's rare in a league of jaded big men.
"[He's] as big as ... you see him out there," said Jets running back Frank Gore, who has seen just about everything in 15 full NFL seasons. "He's just different, man."
At 370, Becton is 48 pounds heavier than the next-biggest player on the Jets, tackle George Fant. More team perspective: The Jets' two slot receivers, Jamison Crowder (177 pounds) and Braxton Berrios (190), equal the weight of one Becton.
Using listed weights for a leaguewide comparison, Becton is the third-heaviest player on a current NFL roster, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He's lighter than the Las Vegas Raiders' Trent Brown (380) and close to the Seattle Seahawks' Bryan Mone (366).
Asked if he gets tired of hearing about his size, Becton cracked, "I've heard it since I've been little" -- a line that would've made Yogi Berra proud. "It's nothing new. I'm used to it. I embrace it now. I like hearing that I'm big."
Let's take a closer look at Becton, through the eyes of coaches, teammates and those who have dared to get in his way:
The pancake victim
On the first day in pads, Becton -- at left tackle with the starting offense -- released from the line of scrimmage on a handoff to Bell, reached the second level of the defense and squashed middle linebacker Neville Hewitt. That Becton transported his 370 pounds that quickly to an open space was impressive. That he finished the job with a pancake ... well, that's what he did at Louisville that prompted the Jets to draft him 11th overall.
Hewitt: "Yeah, he got me. It was on a play where he hit the gap and he came off the ball pretty good. I was pretty impressed. It was a pretty big thud."
Blake Cashman, Jets linebacker: "I had to take him one-on-one [on a different play], and let's just say that didn't go so good for me. In practice, first day in pads, he made himself known out there and showed what he's capable of doing. He's a great player, somebody that's going to play a long time in this league. He has so much more potential to grow."
The defensive lineman
Becton's height and weight are obvious to everyone who watches him play. He's such a big Jet that a "4" should be sown in between his numbers on his jersey -- 77. But it's not his size that causes the most problems for defensive linemen; it's his arm length. At the NFL scouting combine, his arm length measured 35 6/8 inches, which put him in the 95th percentile among offensive linemen, according to NFLCombineResults.com.
Henry Anderson, defensive end: "I haven't had a chance to go against him yet, but just seeing him on film and talking to the guys who have been playing against him ... I mean, just a huge dude. I know dudes like that, that are that big, they get on you a little faster than you're used to because their arms are so long. Everything is a split-second quicker, so your reflexes have to be a little faster.
"Sizewise, [he reminds me of] Trent Brown, who we played last year. That dude is huge. He's got long arms. ... They're both pretty heavy dudes. It's not that easy to stop them in their tracks in the run game."
The head coach
Jets coach Adam Gase first met Becton at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. He remembers how Becton filled up the room when he arrived for his 15-minute interview with the Jets' brass. It made quite an impression on the coach. He knows how the left tackle position is supposed to be played, having coached elite players in the past, Laremy Tunsil (Miami Dolphins) and Ryan Clady (Denver Broncos). Gase isn't ready to anoint Becton, but he's enthralled by the rookie's potential.
Gase: "It's rare that you see a 370-pound guy move the way he does. It's hard to explain what it feels like when you're standing next to him. When you get next to him, that's when you realize how big this guy is. When other players are talking about his size, his length, his strength, that's when you know it's real. ... He applies it to the field.
"It's difficult for guys to figure how to rush him in the pass game, and then in the run game, it's hard to move him back. You don't see much penetration. That line flattens out pretty fast. And you know, the longer he goes through this training camp, the better he's going to get."
Darnold was pressured on 36.4% of his dropbacks last season, the second-highest rate in the league, per ESPN Stats & Information data. (Only the Seahawks' Russell Wilson had a higher rate.) If it doesn't improve, the Jets will have major issues. This season, he has a 370-pound bodyguard watching his back.
Darnold: "Yeah, it's comforting. ... We're excited to have Big Bec. I think he's going to be a very special player. ... He's a quick learner. He's picking it up super-duper fast, which I'm very happy about."
The line coach
Jets veteran line coach Frank Pollack sounded like a physics professor when talking about determining Becton's ideal playing weight. While he acknowledged 370 is too high, he said this isn't a cookie-cutter decision. He believes Becton is a rare prospect, and that must be considered.
Pollack: "This game is all about speed and leverage. Mass times acceleration equals force, right? You need a guy who can play with speed and bend. At what point does he start to lose his ability to bend and move with speed, and not create force? That's unique to every individual and he's extremely unique because he's a big man and he can still move and bend."
More than anything, Pollack said he likes Becton's studious approach in the classroom, albeit virtual.
Pollack: "He clearly hit the [playbook] all summer long. ... Every time I've had a question for him in front of the guys, he's hit it out of the park. He's right on top of it. If he doesn't know the answer, it's like a five-second pause, hearing him turn the page to go right to the notes where he wrote it down."
Little notations for a big man.