ATHENS — Isaiah McKenzie is the smallest player on Georgia’s team by a good bit. He’s listed at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, and in actuality probably comes up short on both counts.
But that doesn’t mean he’s the weakest player on the team. Far from it, a according to his coaches and teammates.
“This is a little guy that pound for pound is as strong as anybody on our team,” offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “It doesn’t bother him one bit to mix it up.”
McKenzie validated that remark on Thursday.
“It’s very accurate,” a grinning McKenzie said, declining to provide details.
When you’re a small guy playing a giant’s game, one is well advised to have some special skills. Entering his third season with the Bulldogs as a wide receiver and return specialists, McKenzie has proven he belongs.
Now he wants to prove something more. This is why McKenzie has turned himself into wee-sized workout warrior
“When you’re the smallest, so I’ve got to try to figure out something,” said McKenzie, a junior from Miami. “I’ve got to try to bench more, squat more and be the fastest. So that’s why. That’s just my mindset.”
McKenzie might be the fastest Bulldog, though teammate Reggie Davis might put up an argument. Davis, a senior and former state sprint champion in Florida, is also a member of Georgia’s wide receiver corps. He and McKenzie have an ongoing dispute over which is actually the quickest. But then it gets bogged down in qualifiers like 40 yards versus 100 yards versus 100 meters, and so forth.
Suffice it to say, they’re both extremely fast. It’s why they’re both set to be in the Bulldogs’ receiver rotation and as kickoff and punt returners.
But when it comes to returning kicks, that’s where Davis gives McKenzie the nod.
“I’m rotating back there,” Davis said. “But, you know, Isaiah McKenzie, he’s definitely the man back there.”
McKenzie’s the man as long as he can stay out there. He has five career returns for touchdowns, four on punts and another on a kickoff. But the Bulldogs have had trouble keeping him on the field. Between chronic hamstring injuries and decision-making issues, McKenzie’s presence on returns was sporadic last season. He missed three games with injuries and finished with 17 punt returns and 21 overall, nine fewer than the previous season.
Perhaps that’s why SEC coaches placed him only on their second-team all-conference squad on Thursday. But McKenzie was represented twice, both as an all-purpose player and as a return specialist.
McKenzie appreciated the mention. But, again, he wants more.
“I feel very honored to be put on the second team,” McKenzie said. “Hopefully, I can make first team when it’s over. … I’m not offended. It just fuels me, keeps me going.”