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Brandon McKinney: Living in the Moment

Oct 10, 2021

With the future always holding so much uncertainty, it can be difficult to seize the present day. Taking today for granted is something we do far too often but it's something Utah Safety Brandon McKinney is making sure to avoid in his first and final year with the Utes.

McKinney played his first four seasons of college ball at the University of Washington where he saw action in 44 games and totaled 44 tackles. After his time with the Huskies was over, McKinney wanted to pick a school that would maximize his skill set, so, when Utah defensive coordinator and safeties coach Morgan Scalley called, he quickly realized he knew where he wanted to take his talents.

"I just felt like the scheme here would fit my play style better than anywhere else," said McKinney. "With this being my last year, I just want to ball out and with this defensive system, allowing me to blitz and play aggressive, I'm free to do that."

McKinney has started seven games for the Utes this season and his aggressive play style has been on full display as he leads the secondary with 51 tackles.
This aggressive play style was first instilled in him by watching his favorite movie.

"Remember The Titans made me fall in love with football," said McKinney. "The story was so powerful, and it all seemed so cool; the gear, teamwork and physicality of the game, it just all fell together for me."

McKinney grew up in Orange, California where he was the youngest in his family, so he spent his youth as many do on Friday nights, running around at a high school football field.

"Going to my cousin's football games and getting to watch him play was really special for me," said McKinney. "It made me want to play even more so when my friends asked me to play, I didn't give it a second thought."

McKinney's youth coaches took full advantage of his athleticism letting him play all over the field which only added to his love of the sport. McKinney would also frequently play with his stepbrother, Corey, in their backyard where they would work on tackling drills and play catch.

Family is very important to McKinney as he has close relationships with his siblings and cousins. He also shares a strong bond with his mom, Monica Hernandez, and dad, Michael McKinney.

"My mom has always been there for me, and I talk to her every day," said McKinney. "I can tell her anything that's on my mind and she always knows what to say. I have a really strong relationship with my dad too and I talk to him pretty much every day as well."

The support from McKinney's family would help prepare him to play youth football in Orange, California.

"It was intense," said McKinney. "I played on a team where a lot of guys went on to play Division I football and that was the same case with the guys lining up across from us. One year we got the chance to travel down to Florida for the National championship and getting that exposure at a young age was really cool."
McKinney attended high school at Orange Lutheran, where the competition only got steeper but that was what he liked about playing in California.

"Every game was very competitive, and I loved that it forced me to bring my A-game every week," said McKinney. "The vibe on game days was also really cool and we got to play in a lot of collegiate venues."

At Orange Lutheran, McKinney was a two-time, first team All-Orange County player and earned all Trinity League as a senior. McKinney played both defensive back and receiver earning numerous offers from Pac-12 schools.

Now McKinney is happy to be a Ute and excited to continue to maximize his final year with the team.

"It's been awesome getting to know my teammates and I'm enjoying my time here for sure. I'm not taking it for granted," said McKinney. "Every day I'm just trying to get better and I'm just taking it one day at a time because it's going fast, so I just want to live in the moment."