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Prep football: McKenzie headed west soon, hoping to further family legacy

1:00 AM, May. 04, 2013 EDT

Green Bay Southwest defensive end Reginald Kahlil McKenzie (58) brings down Manitowoc running back Ethan Just (34) in the second quarter during Friday night's game at Dahlin Family Stadium in Green Bay. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Kahlil McKenzie is one month away from the biggest transition of his young life and football career.

The sophomore defensive lineman for Green Bay Southwest will be leaving the only place he's called home for California's Bay Area.

McKenzie is the oldest son of Oakland Raiders general manager and former Green Bay Packers executive Reggie McKenzie.

The family decided to stay back in Green Bay without Reggie for one year after he was hired by the Raiders in 2012. Reggie and his wife, June, felt the transition would be easier for their children if they had time to prepare for the move.

"Of course I'm excited to be out there in California, it's a cool place to be," said Kahlil, who has a younger brother, Jalen, and two older sisters, Jasmin and Mahkayla. "There also is a sadness of leaving all my friends and leaving the school I've been at."

It also means Southwest won't have an opportunity to see McKenzie reach a level of play he knows he hasn't gotten to yet.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound McKenzie has shown great promise since emerging as a freshman for the Trojans in 2011 and being named the MVP of the U-15 USA football team at the Eastbay/Football University Youth All American Bowl in San Antonio in January 2012.

Former Southwest coach Bryce Paup, who is now the defensive line coach at Northern Iowa, said last year that McKenzie already can do things some rookies in the NFL can't do.

He had 18 solo tackles, 23 assists, six sacks and two forced fumbles in 2012 while helping lead the Trojans to their first conference title since 1975, but there were people associated with the team who felt McKenzie didn't always play to his ability.

McKenzie is one of them.

He doesn't use youth as an excuse. Even though he often was playing against juniors and seniors, he knows he was bigger than most of them.

McKenzie thinks it may have had more to do with confidence. He was second-guessing himself on a lot of plays.

"This year, I didn't do nearly as good as I wanted to do," McKenzie said. "I feel like it was me not getting to the gear that I needed to get to.

"I feel like I just didn't step it up to where I should have and didn't get to the next gear that I know I have."

McKenzie will play at De La Salle in Concord next season after recently being accepted to the school. It has been the home of several future NFL players, including Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward and former New York Giants receiver Amani Toomer.

It always was a good bet McKenzie would become a football player, although his first love was baseball.

His father has spent the past 27 seasons in football as both a player and front office executive. His uncle, Raleigh, played 16 seasons in the NFL and won two Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins. He now works for Reggie as a college scout.

Still, there was no expectations placed on him to play football.

"I'm happy that he's doing it, don't get me wrong," Reggie said. "Would I have pressured him to do it? No. But I'm excited that he's had the opportunity to play high school ball and, hopefully, he will play it well enough to get a scholarship and get an education his father doesn't have to pay for. That's always a positive."

That would appear to be a good bet, too.

McKenzie isn't allowed to receive phone calls from college coaches for a few more months, but he has gotten the camp invites and letters.

He has goals he reads to himself every morning, and earning a Division I scholarship is No. 4 on the list behind his academic dreams.

McKenzie is inspired when he hears his father talk about the hard work he put in to make the NFL. He wasn't born yet when Reggie retired as a player in 1992 after seven seasons with the Raiders, Phoenix Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, but he's done his own research on his father's career to make sure his old man was as good as he said he was.

Indeed, his father worked hard to become one of just 32 general managers in the NFL. His mother is a successful attorney. Jasmin is attending Wheaton College in Illinois with plans to become a teacher. Mahkayla is attending Duke University to become a civil engineer and is labeled a genius by her brother. Jalen, meanwhile, looks to have a bright future in football, too.

McKenzie doesn't want to live off his family's name. He wants to be part of its legacy.

It's what keeps him humble in a world where it would be easy to take things for granted and expect things to be handed out rather than earned.

"I just remind myself that I haven't made it anywhere yet," McKenzie said. "That's how I stay humble. I don't have a single offer. Not a single anything. I haven't been to a single college. I haven't got any type of accolade.

"I look at it as my parents did this, but I haven't."



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