POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Georgia tailback signee Kenny McIntosh will never forget the day he finally “made it” among his peers.
“The Blueprint!” the PA announcer shrieked over the speakers at Lauderdale Lakes Park after McIntosh, repping the “Vikings” in his 80-pound league, showed pee wee prowess.
Having a nickname in South Florida meant joining an unofficial, but very distinct, group of athletic prospects tabbed for greatness.
“All the good players had nicknames,” McIntosh told DawgNation during a series of interviews last weekend.
“There was Touchdown Taylor, The Joystick, Slim and Black,” he said, “and I knew some of the older players in the park had nicknames they went by, too, so I wanted one.”
Richard McIntosh Sr., Kenny’s father, still remembers his youngest son beaming that day.
“Oh yeah, you should have seen the smile on his face when he got that nickname,” Richard McIntosh said. “He was really excited about it, and he likes it to this day. I had to explain it to my wife: the reference was to him being the blueprint of a great football player.”
The nickname has, however, become somewhat ironic considering how many plans have fallen through the past six months.
• Sports Illustrated promised to follow him through the season and do a special feature — it fell through.
• Adidas promised him an invite to its all-star game — it was never received.
• Alabama promised him a visit to the Auburn game — it was rescinded the week before.
“I don’t know exactly why things happened that way,” McIntosh said, more puzzled than upset.
“But I know I’m with Georgia now, and I know Georgia wins, and I know they use their running backs the right way,” McIntosh said.
“I know people are going to see me and judge for themselves, and I know I’m headed where I’m supposed to be.”
The 247Sports composite ranks McIntosh as the No. 11 running back in the nation, and the No. 187 player overall coming out of University School in Fort Lauderdale.
But closer film review reveals a chiseled 6-foot-1, 215-pound back who displays the same sort of vision, power and balance as NFL star Le’Veon Bell, albeit, less accomplished at this stage of his career.
McIntosh grew up in a football family, so he understands that adversity is part of life, just like it’s part of the game.
You get knocked down, you get back up and return to the huddle, call the next play and go all out again.
Older brother RJ McIntosh is a former Miami Hurricane now with the New York Giants, having overcome a thyroid condition.
Deon, another older brother, has traveled the junior college route. After spending his first two years at Notre Dame, Deon is now heading from East Mississippi Junior College to Washington State.
“We always brag about how Kenny will be the best out of all of us,” said Deon, who was back home for Mother’s Day. “We all knew he’d be something special.
“I’ve told him to keep his faith and family first, and remember why you are there at Georgia and handle your business. Everything else comes after that.”
Kenny has learned valuable lessons watching his brothers’ careers.
“I watched RJ going through his college career, and I saw how quickly things can change when his head coach and position coach changed, how you have to be ready to adapt,” McIntosh said.
“Seeing Deon with his transfers, I saw how important it is to maintain tunnel vision toward your goals no matter what.”
SURROUNDED BY GREATNESS
South Florida’s talent-rich sports scene has been well documented, and Kenny grew up in the middle of it playing baseball as well as football into his early years of high school.
Duke basketball signee Vernon Carey Jr. is one of Kenny’s closest friends, the two coming up through the AAU hardcourt ranks together. Kenny was a power forward on University School’s 2018 state championship team.
Daniel Luque, the University School head football coach, said that while playing basketball helped make McIntosh a better-rounded athlete, it also leaves room for growth.
“Now that Kenny is centered all on football, and it is Georgia football strength and conditioning year around, he’s going to grow into the Incredible Hulk,” Luque said.
“He hasn’t really been in a weight program like that year around because he was playing AAU with Team Florida through his junior year.”
But when McIntosh was on the football fields for camps and 7-on-7, he was competing with and against future Division I talent.
Current UGA players were among that talent, including defensive backs Divaad Wilson and Tyson Campbell, along with backfield stablemate James Cook.
McIntosh has recently worked out alongside former Florida tailback Jordan Scarlett and current Gators’ receivers Josh Hammond and Trevon Grimes in training sessions.
Most notably, McIntosh has lifted weights along with age-defying NFL running back legend Frank Gore.
Gore, a 36-year-old Miami product, is headed back to training camp for a 15th season in the NFL as a member of the Buffalo Bills.
“It’s amazing, Frank Gore doesn’t want any air or any fans going when he works out, he just wants to sweat it all out for an hour straight,” McIntosh said. “He wears this gray Nike sweat suit — not a Dry Fit kind, it’s that heavy cotton kind, —and every time he leaves, it’s drenched.
“I try to match his work ethic, but I’m not quite there yet, that’s tough.”
THE GEORGIA PLAN
McIntosh went through the ropes in the recruiting process, getting his first offers in eighth grade from Rutgers and Miami, and making visits to Oklahoma, Ohio State, Auburn and Alabama.
Georgia stood out because Kirby Smart was different than the other head coaches, McIntosh said.
“Coach Smart knows how to talk to players and relate,” McIntosh said. “I think a lot of it is because he played SEC football at Georgia. When I was there on my official visit, I remember seeing Coach Smart in the locker room and how he was with the guys celebrating after the win.
“I just feel Coach Smart is going to keep it real with you. He’s not going to tell you what you want to hear, but he will tell you what you need to hear and what’s best for you.”
McIntosh said he was intent on seeing how he would fit in during his visit to Athens, along with what kind of line he would be running behind.
“So I was looking at the offensive line, and I was looking for a brotherhood, and I saw all of that at Georgia,” McIntosh said. “I met with the offensive coordinator and the offensive line coach, and we all connected. They were being real with me.
“Then I met Isaiah Wilson, and it was crazy to see a lineman that big, and then Solomon Kindley, and I want to run behind guys like that.”
Andrew Thomas, Ben Cleveland, Cade Mays, Lamont Gaillard, Trey Hill and Jamaree Salyer all filed past McIntosh by the end of the day, and the Blueprint was on his way to being a Bulldog.
Georgia won out over the other finalists McIntosh held offers from: Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma and Penn State.
— Blueprint#1 (@1_blueprint) November 14, 2018
READY TO ROCK
McIntosh is entering a crowded Georgia backfield with returning 1,000-yard rusher D’Andre Swift along with Brian Herrien, James Cook and Zamir White.
The snaps aren’t likely to come early, and they certainly won’t come easily, and that’s OK with the McIntosh family.
Having already seen two of his older sons go through the process, Richard McIntosh has given Kenny a winning mindset to bring to Georgia.
“I’ve told Kenny, eventually opportunity will knock, and when it knocks, you kick the door open and show the world what you’re made of,” Richard McIntosh said. “I’ve learned with the older boys that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and there will be good days, and there will be bad days.
“Anything worth having, you have to work hard for it, and with the success Georgia has had with running backs, I know he’s in the best place.”
Kenny McIntosh was a standout safety before he became a star running back, so he’s signed up for whatever comes next in the way of special teams contributions.
“It’s my job to play whatever role I’m given at my best,” McIntosh said. “I need to learn the playbook, and I know the competition will be intense. I’ve watched their practices, and they move quickly and with a sense of urgency.
“But you also see the love for each other, and how they’re always supporting each other on and off the field even though there’s competition.”
McIntosh paid close attention to fellow former South Florida high school standout Sony Michel, who made a successful trek through Georgia and on to the NFL.
McIntosh had a chance to ask Michel about the Georgia way.
“I wanted to know how it prepared him for the league,” McIntosh said. “Everyone says the SEC is where the best defenses are at, but I wanted to know about how the Georgia offense is with Coach Smart. He just told me, ‘you have to go in and grind and do what you’ve been doing your whole life,’ and that I have to earn my roles on the team.”
Michel said working in the same backfield with Nick Chubb helped him push himself to be better, which ultimately led to him being a first-round draft pick and winning the Super Bowl with New England.
A blueprint, if ever there was one, and McIntosh has taken note.
“Sony was a first-round pick because he helped his team in a lot of ways,” McIntosh said. “He ran the ball, but he could catch the ball, he could block, and he played special teams.
“So I’m ready to do whatever the coaches tell me to do at Georgia and win championships.”
Kenny McIntosh’s DawgNation introduction
Kenny McIntosh shares his story