Gorman: Despite hometown push, McKenzie to take visits
By Kevin Gorman
Published: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 11:18 p.m.
Shai McKenzie knew in his heart, the moment he tried to stand up, that he had a torn ACL in his right knee.
The Washington star tailback, one of the most heavily recruited players in the WPIAL, had his fears confirmed by an MRI on Monday and his knee surgically repaired Friday.
In between, McKenzie almost followed his heart but eventually decided to listen to his head.
“I almost made a commitment to Pittsburgh,” McKenzie said. “Then I decided to stay in touch with everyone else, to make sure my scholarships were still there.
“It's good that (UPMC Sports Medicine Center has) some of the best doctors in the world, but I don't want to make my decision to go to my hometown school just because I tore my ACL.”
On the night he was injured at Charleroi, McKenzie heard from finalists Florida State, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia Tech, as well as a new school to consider.
North Carolina replaces Arkansas in the final five for McKenzie, who has said he expects to sign with an ACC school.
McKenzie knows that Panthers fans are pulling for him to pick Pitt, that his injury and rehab could be viewed as a reason to decide to stay closer to home.
“A lot of emotions are out there, hoping I make a commitment to the hometown team,” McKenzie said. “It's bigger than that. These schools still are giving me the opportunity to keep my scholarship. I feel I owe it to them to take a visit.”
If there's a silver lining to his season-ending injury, it's that McKenzie can make an educated decision on his college choice.
“I can actually sit down and do more research, watch more games on TV,” said McKenzie, still receiving 20-30 letters a day from suitors. “I need to feel comfortable with where I'm going.”
McKenzie also plans to do something that would have been near-impossible had he remained healthy this season: Take all five official visits permitted by the NCAA.
“I want to use my officials,” McKenzie said. “I don't want to make an early commitment and give these other schools reason to pull my scholarship, then not feel comfortable with the school I signed with. This isn't easy, with what my future holds.”
McKenzie said this Saturday while lying on his bed, his right knee wrapped in ice and layers of elastic bandages. Right now, McKenzie knows only that he faces intensive rehabilitation, not where he will play college football.
“You could say I was heartbroken,” he said of the injury, “but all the positive feedback I got after the surgery, that I could possibly come back stronger than before and I still had all the scholarship offers has helped.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
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