Justin McCray has a simple, ultra- physical mentality and approach toward his job: knocking down big defensive linemen.
“Aggressive, tenacious,” McCray said when asked to characterize his style of play following a tough workout at Kinitro Fitness before training camp with trainer Billy Voltaire. “I’m giving it everything I’ve got every play.”
Competing for a starting offensive guard job with the Texans after signing a two-year contract with a base value of $4 million, a maximum value of $5.5 million with $1.5 million in playtime incentives, McCray has the requisite mentality for the trenches.
At 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, McCray provides a lot of strength and operates with leverage as a former district champion leverage growing up in Miami, Fla.
McCray, who played for Texans offensive line coach James Campen for the Green Bay Packers in 2017 and 2018 with eight starts in 2017, including time at tackle when Bryan Bulaga got hurt, was with the Atlanta Falcons last year. He will never forget his humble roots in the Arena Football League playing with his twin brother, Justin, with the Orlando Predators and the Tampa Bay Storm.
“I played pretty much fullback,” McCray said. “You got the ball every now and then, but it’s pretty much just being a glorified lineman. My twin brother played tight end. It was a lot of fun, just not a lot of pay. The love for the game was there. The games were competitive. I liked it a lot. It’s a blessing really still being able to play and compete at the highest level coming from where I come from.”
The McCray twins worked at a hotel owned by the Predators owner following the 2016 season. Justin McCray was a bellman. Then, he got signed by the Packers and became a starter before being traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2019 and started four of 15 games at right tackle and left tackle. He played last season for the Atlanta Falcons and started two of 10 games played.
“I’ve played it all,” McCray said of his positional flexibility. “I’ve played pretty much everything.”
The Texans have made a lot of changes to their offensive line, signing McCray, center Justin Britt, guard Lane Taylor, trading for Marcus Cannon and cutting center Nick Martin and guard Zach Fulton.
“I’m super excited,” McCray said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys, a lot of linemen work out here, Tytus Howard, Justin Britt, just really excited to get out here and work. I think we’re jelling pretty well. It’s a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, a lot of experience in the room, a lot of ideas and technique to bounce off each other. Honestly, it’s just a good group of guys, a good group of men besides being good football players. It’s a lot of competition and it brings out the best in everybody.”
The Texans, coming off a 4-12 season, have significantly overhauled their roster under new general manager Nick Caserio.
“Absolutely, I think it’s a lot of good players who have had success in this league,” McCray said. “There’s no telling what will happen.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.