ATHENS — As it turns out, Isaiah McKenzie didn’t have much choice as far as returning for his senior season with the Georgia Bulldogs.
UGA’s dynamic wide receiver and kicker returner admitted as much Wednesday after completing his workout for Pro Day at Georgia’s Indoor Athletic Facility. The junior said an “academic situation” would have kept him out of spring practice and it would’ve required an appeal for him to regain his eligibility for the fall semester.
“I would’ve had to appeal the situation that happened in school,” said McKenzie, who led the Bulldogs’ in receiving and return yards. “It would’ve taken me out for the spring. I just said I’m not going to sit out and miss the spring, so I’ll just leave.”
McKenzie said he is asked about it all the time by NFL teams, who came out by the dozens to see him and 14 other current or former players workout in the Indoor Athletic Facility.
“I tell them (what happened) and whatever they think is what they think,” McKenzie said. “That’s what they told me coming out: ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ So I tell them anything they need to know about me.”
As for the specifics of his academic shortcomings, McKenzie said: “I can’t say that. Just academics.”
McKenzie stands as one of Georgia’s best hopes for keeping alive its 25-year streak of having a player drafted every year. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound, native of Miami was the only Bulldog invited to the recent NFL Combine.
McKenzie did not try to replicate the results he posted in Indianapolis, which included a 4.42-second 40-yard dash. But he did go through all the position drills, caught punts and kickoffs and ran the 60-yard shuttle, which was not utilized at the combine.
“I feel like I had a lot to gain,” said McKenzie, wearing special gold cleats for the occasion. “I didn’t do a lot here today that I didn’t do at the combine.”
McKenzie worked on kick returns along with teammate Reggie Davis, who split that duty with him at Georgia. Davis, who weighed in at only 158 pounds, ran the day’s fastest 40 at 4.29 seconds.
McKenzie said he has meetings scheduled in the coming weeks with several teams, including the Ravens, Browns and Jets. He also hopes to get a call-back from the Falcons. The returns drills were overseen Wednesday by Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, and he spent a lot of time talking with both McKenzie and Davis.
Atlanta lost veteran returner Eric Weems to the Tennessee Titans recently but signed receiver/kick returner Andre Roberts from the Detroit Lions.
“Coach Armstong said they brought the whole staff out here today to look at me and things like that, so I really appreciate that,” McKenzie said. “Hopefiully they’ll pick me up. Hopefully anybody picks me up.”
McKenzie is a tough call for pro teams. His size will keep a lot of teams away, though there is a trend in the league of utilizing small players in the slot and on returns. Atlanta’s Taylor Gabriels is another success story in that regard.
“They see me in the slot position,” McKenzie said. “They ask me if I can play any of the outside positions like Z or X. I played a little bit of Z but mainly in the slot. It’s mostly special teams but slot comes with it. … Taylor Gabriel made a big impact there. If I go there or not I can mark my game off him and what he’s done at Atlanta.”
McKenzie said he wishes Georgia all the best for this next season, but he’s just having to make the best of his own situation.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I enjoyed my time here. I enjoyed the people here, players, teammates, fans, things like that. But I have no regrets.”