Central State had an opening on its football staff and six days ago Brandon McKinney filled it.
Oh has he ever filled it!
And that’s not just referring to his massive presence on the sideline at McPherson Stadium on Saturday for CSU’s annual spring scrimmage. There’s more to him than just those 300-plus pounds that were packed on a 6-foot-2 frame and topped off by a new black cap with a Marauder on the crown.
“I think he’s really going to be a plus for us in terms of coaching the defensive line and in his relationship with Dayton,” said CSU head coach Cedric Pearl. “He has a real connection to the city. He’ll attract kids and he knows a lot of coaches and people in the community.
“Once I brought him in here and we talked it was obvious. It was a no-brainer.”
McKinney does know the defensive line.
He played the position for five NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. Before that he started 2 ½ seasons at Michigan State and was a two-time all-state player at Chaminade Julienne High School.
And the new, 34-year-old assistant may well help CSU make the inroads in the Dayton area it has long tried to develop.
In fact, few former pro athletes from the Miami Valley – except maybe Martin Bayless and for a while, Keith Byars, here in Dayton, as well as Matt Light up in Greenville – have made the kind of concerted effort McKinney has to give back to the area in which they grew up.
For several years his BJ Kids 91 Foundation (BJ for his name Brandon Jermain, 91 for the jersey number he was most associated with in the NFL) has been a platform for him to help area kids in a number of ways.
The signature event has been his annual “Back to School Barber/Stylist Cut Off” that has attracted 600 to nearly 1,000 kids to the Dayton Convention Center just before school starts in August. Students get coiffed for free by hair care professionals from the community. They also are given school supplies and are fed.
At Christmas, McKinney’s foundation provided gift cards to a place like Target for numerous families in the Dayton and Trotwood areas.
Other times I remember him going room to room talking to kids in the Hematology and Oncology department at Children’s Medical Center in Dayton.
During the summer he’s had a youth football camp that included a few other NFL players with area ties who served as instructors.
“He’s a guy who definitely remembers where he came from,” Javon Ringer, the CJ and Michigan State star who played four seasons with Tennessee in the NFL, told me during one of those youth sessions a few years ago
“I’ve known him a long time and I’ve constantly seen him give back. He’s just an all-around great person who does a lot.”
McKinney explained that attitude as he stood on the edge of the CSU field Saturday after the spirited exhibition had ended:
“A lot of people talk about Dayton and what has left the city. I tell everyone Dayton is a great place to be and I’m gonna do my part for it. It’s about giving back to a place that’s been good to you.
“I had a good upbringing. I have a real sense of family here and we have real top-notch athletic talent in our town. There’s a rich tradition here.”
McKinney said a lot of his family went to Central State:
“My dad, my stepmom, my brother, two cousins, my uncle – they all went here.”
He said his dad, Tim McKinney Sr. an academic advisor at Sinclair, “taught me how to be a man. He taught me how to be responsible and how to give back and be faithful and loyal to my community.”
His late mother, Diane, graduated from Wright State and spent 23 years as a case worker for the Montgomery County Job and Family Services.
“I was a Mama’s Boy,” he smiled. “She was always there to comfort me.”
She was 51 when she died from lung cancer in 2008.
“She never smoked a day in her life,” he said quietly. He now carries a likeness of her tattooed on his arm.
While the guidance of his family did provide him with a solid foundation, it wasn’t always easy for him to build a football career on top of it.
“I didn’t score high enough on my ACT and SAT tests or have high enough grades to play in college right away,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to go to Michigan State as a Prop 48 player. I sat out and got my grades and ended up with a good career there.”
Although he was undrafted, he made the NFL as a free agent and forged a career as a steady backup nose tackle.
Injuries, including a torn ACL at the end of the 2012 season, cut short his career.
“I want to pass a lot of this on to the players now,” he said. “I don’t want them to follow the path I did. I want it to be a lot easier for them, but I still want them to end up at the same place I did.
“That’s why they need to get their grades now and pass their tests. If they do that, it will be less stressful for them.’’
McKinney did some volunteer coaching in Trotwood, but said this is his first regular job on the sidelines. He just joined the Marauders last Monday.
Already though he’s making an impact, Pearl said. Much of it has to do with his NFL resume.
“The players love it,” Pearl said. “They want to be around somebody who’s been where they aspire to be. He knows what it takes and their eyes are glued to him.”
CSU defensive end Shemar Moss, a transfer from Kent State, is one of McKinney’s players:
“He knows what he’s talking about. We respect him a lot and are just ready to get it going and get his knowledge.”
Xavier Johnson, a 240-pound defensive end from Cleveland, thinks McKinney will be a big plus for the program:
“He’s got a lot of local connections in the Dayton area. That’s got to help us. “
McKinney said he plans to put on his annual back to school rally again this year, but said:” We plan to shift the focus of the foundation.
“We’ll have a fatherhood initiative, financial literacy things and we’ll focus on childhood obesity.
“We’ll have some personal development, too. Even something like how to eat dinner. How to use a fork and a spoon. It’s just trying to help kids do better.
“I like doing that.
“It’s a blessing …to be a blessing.”