`Sack' dirty word to Miami's McKinnie

He's aced every test as protector of Dorsey

Reed keeps eyes open

Rose Bowl notebook

January 01, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PASADENA, Calif. - As a child growing up in New Jersey, Bryant McKinnie wasn't allowed to play with his friends on organized football teams. He was simply too big.

So McKinnie played basketball and kept growing.

"When I was 10, I wore a size 10 [shoe]," said McKinnie. "All the way to when I was 18 [I was growing], and then it stopped."

As for his eating habits, McKinnie said his mother used to buy six boxes of cereal at a time and had to hide all but one in fear that her growing son might devour them all in one sitting.

"I ate a lot of cereal when I was younger; maybe that's why I'm tall, because I drank a lot of milk," said McKinnie, who as a senior offensive tackle at the University of Miami is 6 feet 9 and 336 pounds.

He didn't play football until his junior year in high school. He eventually quit basketball and went to Lackawanna (Pa.) Junior College to refine his football skills. One day, an assistant from Miami showed up.

"They were looking for some offensive linemen," said McKinnie. "Somehow, they found me."

Now he makes sure would-be tacklers don't find their way to Hurricanes quarterback Ken Dorsey.

Going into Thursday's Rose Bowl against Nebraska, McKinnie hasn't allowed a sack in a game or even in an intrasquad scrimmage. It has helped him go from a virtual unknown to a first-team All-American.

This is how dominant a player McKinnie has become: He received 26 first-place votes for the Heisman Trophy, and finished eighth. "I might have cost Ken [Dorsey] a few votes," said McKinnie. "But he might have cost me a few."

McKinnie said he patterns his game after a number of players, including former Miami star Leon Searcy, as well as Searcy's teammate with the Ravens, Jonathan Ogden. Because of his size, McKinnie is most often compared to Ogden.

"I try to watch some of the stuff they do and use it in my game plan," he said.

As for not allowing a sack, McKinnie is realistic.

"I don't plan on it [giving up a sack], but I know that one day I'm going to have a bad day or somebody is going to have a good day," he said.

Couldn't stay away

Miami strong safety Edward Reed could have left after his redshirt junior year, but opted to improve his position in the NFL draft by coming back this season. Reed was one of the team's leaders last summer when the Hurricanes worked out at 5:30 a.m.

"It was hard at first, but once we started working out, you wake up fast," said Reed.

Said defensive coordinator Randy Shannon: "That goes to show you what kind of guy Ed is. He didn't have to be working out with everyone else, but he was. That's where the leadership on this team began."

Red sea likely

As is usually the case, Nebraska could have twice - or more - as many fans as Miami for the game. The "Big Red Horde" has been known to be 40,000-strong or more at bowl games, and there is talk the numbers could be even higher this year.

"We'd like to think our fans give us an edge," said Nebraska coach Frank Solich. "I don't know about 60,000 or 70,000 being at the game. It wouldn't surprise me, though."

Hard-hat incident

The helmets of the game's starting quarterbacks, Eric Crouch of Nebraska and Miami's Dorsey, were recently stolen from their team's respective locker rooms here. Crouch's helmet was returned anonymously on Sunday, two days after it was taken.

"It's back, but we're kind of glad it was gone because he likes the new one better," said Solich. "I told him if he practices well enough, we'll put an `N' on the side."

As of yesterday, Dorsey's helmet was still missing.

Rose Bowl

No. 1 Miami (11-0) vs. No. 4 Nebraska (11-1)

Site: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV: Chs. 2, 7

Line: Miami by 9

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