Like father, like son leads to another McKenzie on the football field for Mississippi State.
When Johnathan McKenzie committed to play football at MSU in December of 2008, he chose to follow in the footsteps of his father Duncan, who lettered with the Bulldogs from 1974-77.
Johnathan, who played high school football at Starkville Academy, started the first game of his college career at defensive end Saturday against Memphis.
“I was really proud because I know how hard he’s worked,” Duncan said. “He’s a much more talented athlete and student than I was. It’s a tough job being a college football player. All of those guys work so hard.”
Johnathan McKenzie found out Thursday after practice from MSU football coach Dan Mullen that he was going to start and it was enough time to get some of the butterflies out of his system.
“I was probably going to be a little nervous regardless, but at least I didn’t have to wait until I got in,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie was credited with three total tackles and a half tackle for a loss against the Tigers. Mullen said the start for McKenzie was a reward for doing things right on and off the field.
“Starting for us is determined by a lot of factors,” Mullen said. “It’s determined by academic performance, practice performance, and offseason-conditioning performance.”
Whether he started or not, Mullen said McKenzie was going to get his chance to contribute at defensive end.
“People make a big deal about who starts a game,” Mullen said. “I look at our defensive linemen and they all played 19 snaps in the game. You look at all of the defensive ends rotating in the game.”
Once he got into game action, McKenzie said the speed of the game was a bit surprising.
“It kind of took me a while to get used to it,” McKenzie said. “You’ve got to play a little more aggressive in the game and I need to work on that, but it was real fun though.”
It won’t be long until McKenzie gets another opportunity as the Bulldogs enter Southeastern Conference play against the Auburn Tigers Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Davis-Wade Stadium.
“It’s coming up quick,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie redshirted with MSU last season after performing at tight end and defensive end for the Volunteers. He became one of top 40 high school prospects in the state following his senior season at SA.
During the recruiting process, McKenzie’s father was careful not to interfere with his son’s decision-making.
“We didn’t pressure him (to attend MSU),” Duncan said. “He just loves playing football so we’re just trying to let him go out there, enjoy it and have as much fun as he can.”