For somebody who didn’t grow up around football, Ryan McBean certainly has his head on straight when it comes to the game.
Often times, players who are foreign born show flashes of athleticism and talent, but don’t have the desire or wherewithal to become great. Not having grown up around the game, they lack some of the intangibles that are needed to play the game.
, the second of two fourth-round draft picks by the Pittsburgh Steelers
in last month’s NFL draft, is trying to fight that stereotype.
“I love football,” said McBean. “Football is my life and has been my long dream and I’m glad to be here.”
The 6-5, 295-pound McBean, who was born in Jamaica, admits he’s behind the learning curve, but has a strong desire to get better.
“I’m still learning,” McBean said. “Put me with a coach, I’m just like a kid. I’m still learning and I want to learn. I want to keep learning. I’m good right now, but I know that I could be better. I could be great at anything I do. That’s my position; I’m very young at the game.”
The Steelers are hoping that John Mitchell, their defensive line coach, is that man.
Mitchell has made a habit out of taking raw players the Steelers have selected in later rounds in the draft and turning them into fine finished products. In recent years, he’s done wonders with Aaron Smith
(fourth round), Brett Keisel
(seventh), Rodney Bailey
(fourth) and Chris Hoke
“Anybody can look at a first or second-round guy on tape and say, ‘This guy has a lot of ability,’ ” said Mitchell. “But when you can find a guy in the rough, like Ryan, I’m excited.”
The 23-year-old McBean offers a lot to be excited about. Though he’s nearly 300 pounds, he runs a sub-5-second 40-yard dash and also possesses a quick first step.
He spent the first 14 years of his life in Jamaica with his father before moving to Brooklyn staying at times in foster homes and with his mother. Trouble followed the youngster in Brooklyn and he and his brother were placed on a bus and sent to live in Euless, Texas – a suburb of Fort Worth – to live with their grandmother.
“I had some real good coaches and teachers that cared about me,” said McBean of his time at Trinity High School there.
The coaching staff at Trinity High School had to be ecstatic to see the big youngster getting off the bus. He became an immediate starter at defensive end when he went out for the team as a sophomore, eventually being named the District Defensive MVP as a senior.
From there, McBean headed to Hinds (Miss.) Junior College, where he again excelled for two seasons, catching the eye of the coaching staff at Oklahoma State
, which he chose over Mississippi and Arkansas
, among others.
Playing in the rugged Big 12, McBean saw his share of top-rated talent and earned their respect along the way.
In fact, Texas guard Justin Blalock
, a second-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons
this year and one of the top players at his position available in this draft, named McBean when asked who was among the toughest players he’d faced in his career.
“Ryan McBean from Oklahoma State. He was very good,” said Blalock at the NFL combine. “In the Big 12, we see pretty good competition week in and week out.”
McBean is the first defensive lineman from Oklahoma State to be selected in the NFL draft since Minnesota took Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams
in the first round in 2002. McBean looks to Williams as one of his role models.
“I would love to end up being like Kevin Williams,” said McBean. “I love to watch tape on him because he is relentless.” If McBean does some day become another Kevin Williams, the Steelers will have found another second-day gem for their defensive line.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter