How Mekhi Becton found the Big Ticket to NFL stardom

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Defensive Back Russ Yeast #3, Tackle Mekhi Becton #73 and Guard Robbie Bell #75 of the Louisville Cardinals take to the field during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on September 21, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Cardinals 35 to 24. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Defensive Back Russ Yeast #3, Tackle Mekhi Becton #73 and Guard Robbie Bell #75 of the Louisville Cardinals take to the field during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on September 21, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Cardinals 35 to 24. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

How Mekhi Becton came to be the Big Ticket.

In April, Mekhi Becton became one of the highest NFL draft picks in Louisville football history, going to the New York Jets with the 11th overall pick. His mother, Semone Becton, had some incredible insight as to how the kid behind the pads became the man he is today.

The former standout offensive lineman went through the gauntlet as a Cardinal, suffering through coaching changes, injuries, and of course the abysmal 2018 season, a time we’d all like to put out of our memory banks.

“He doesn’t let a lot bother him,” Becton said.

After exchanging questions and answers with Semone, I came to realize that Mekhi’s demonstrative presence on the gridiron is a staunch difference from his demeanor at home.

“Definitely a gentle giant off the field but a beast on the field. Two totally different people,” Becton said.

Mekhi Becton’s strong foundation on the field started at home

His lore as a Louisville great began with his determination and will to succeed against all odds, but met with his patient approach to life itself.

“(Mekhi is) very laid back, a hard worker. Nothing has ever been given to him, so he knows if he wants it he has to work hard,” Becton said.

The balance of two dedicated parents helped to gel the young man’s attitude and work ethic.

“I had the school advice. Dad did the sports advice,” Becton said.

One gleaming gem of Semone’s teachings is something Mekhi carries with him to this day.

“Put God first and never let them see you sweat,” she would always tell him.

Mekhi’s father was his mentor and his coach growing up.

“‘Pressure busts pipes.’ (His father) always told him that when he coached him and everyday life,” Becton said.

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Growing up playing football and basketball, Mekhi began to get a lot of attention from colleges. Coming out of Highland Springs, VA, he was ranked as the 43rd best offensive lineman in the nation.

“They started looking at him in the 10th grade from what I could remember,” Becton said.

Louisville offered Mekhi a scholarship in 2016. In January of the following year, he took his official visit there.

“He loved the atmosphere at Louisville. He felt like home when he came there,” Becton said.

Mekhi was received well on campus.

Geron Christian was his tour person. They really gelled well,” she said.

Say what you will about Coach Bobby Petrino and staff, but they had a way of landing some big time recruits in there tenure.

“Coach Galloway was his recruiter and (Mekhi) really gelled with him as well. Also Pete Nochta. Everyone made us feel like family,” Becton said.

However, the Cards were not the only program after Mekhi’s talents and services.

“His top schools were Oregon, Michigan, Louisville, UVA, and Virginia Tech,” Becton said.

Ultimately, Mekhi signed, committed, and enrolled at Louisville in 2017. Along his journey, he had the opportunity to work with perhaps Louisville’s most talented offensive player ever, Lamar Jackson.

“It also helped that Lamar was there. They were good teammates. Lamar was always nice to us. He’s a very humble kid,” Becton said.

But after the juggernaut squad in 2017, things took a turn for the worse. In 2018, amid quarterback uncertainty, a porous defense, and rumors of inner turmoil, the Cardinals stumbled to a 2-10 record.

Seemingly, the program had hit rock bottom, and in turn, Coach Petrino was removed as head coach. Athletic Director Vince Tyra went on a coaching search, and turned up a diamond in the rough in Scott Satterfield.

”It was time for a change,” Becton said.

Mekhi worked hard in the offseason, and made an good impression on the incoming coaches.

“The new staff put the work in, so it was exciting,” Becton said.

Though it was a drastic changing of the guard, there was no hard feelings between Semone and Petrino’s staff.

“I loved both staffs,” she said. “They are totally different in their own right, but as far as my child goes, I loved both line coaches. Petrino talked to us after every game no matter what.”

Satterfield’s first season ended up being Mekhi’s last in a Cardinal jersey. Louisville finished the season 8-5, notching a Music Bowl victory over Mississippi State 38-28. Mekhi blossomed into one of the best offensive linemen in the nation, helping his team improve immensely from the season before.

“He takes pride in helping them progress as a program,” Becton said.

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After a strong finish to his college career, Mekhi had his eyes on a much bigger prize: his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL.

Semone painted a starry picture of draft night.

“Everyone was very excited and emotional. It was a lot. We had just celebrated (Mekhi’s) b-day, and he was just ready for his name to be called,” she said.

Mekhi was not only one of the best linemen in the draft, but he was also one of the best available players.

“We didn’t think he would fall to (pick) 11, but (Jets GM) Joe Douglas kept his word. (Mekhi) had talked to him the day before and he told him, ‘if you’re still there at 11, you will be a Jet’. Also, Joe Douglas is from our area, so that was a plus as well,” Becton said.

The Jets’ selection, although belated in the minds of the Becton family, was a godsend all the same.

“We were expecting for him to be called earlier, but when he was called we weren’t worried about anything. We knew he was where he was supposed to be,” Becton said.

The Becton household erupted when Mekhi’s name was called.

“Everyone was happy and full of joy. It was just a blessing for his name to be called whether it was 11 or 100,” she said.

Semone’s attitude toward Mekhi’s new situation is reflective of her parental approach.

“My son is happy, so we’re happy,” Becton said.

His rookie season rests at the mercy of a rampant COVID-19 epidemic. I asked Semone about her concerns about her son’s participation in football activities.

“He takes his precautionary measures. We pray for him everyday, as well as the other players. I think the NFL will do right by them and make sure they are safe,” Becton said.

With Mekhi’s first NFL practice on August 12th, one thing is certain…he is a gamer, itching for a chance to showcase his skills. Semone shared that same sentiment.

“He is ready to get on that field. He tells us that everytime we talk to him,” she said.

Aside from her son’s growth and success at Louisville and moving on to the NFL Semone Becton has become a beloved piece of the Louisville fanbase. She is referred to as “Mama Becton” on Louisville social media outlets.

“I love the fans. I feel like they are our family. I’ve met some really cool people from Twitter, and I feel like we are really family. Louisville has always been very supportive,” Becton said.

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I really want a Mekhi Becton Jets jersey, but I will equally take this interview with me for years to come. It was a pleasure to get to know the rock foundation behind Mount Becton.