Vol DT Kahlil McKenzie to Forgo Senior Season and Declare for NFL Draft

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    In a somewhat surprising move, Tennessee learned late Sunday night that they would be losing a third junior to the 2018 NFL Draft.

    Defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie announced via Instagram that he intends to forgo his senior season with the Vols and enter early into the 2018 NFL Draft. McKenzie joins running back John Kelly and defensive back Rashaan Gaulden as Vols who will skip their final year of college to pursue an NFL career.

    Where do I start… I still remember the first time I put on my dads old beat up Bowl Jersey and helmet; coming to Knoxville for whatever reason to spend time with family; going to the rooftop of Neyland Stadium and getting chills looking into that empty stadium… Well, first things first, Lord thank you for everything you have blessed me with, thank you for a family that loves me, supports me and guides me, thank you for your never-ending love and the lessons you teach me everyday. Secondly, I want to say thank you to the city of Knoxville and the ENTIRE VolNation for embracing me through the ups and downs through these past 3 years. Knoxville will always be my second home and I will love y’all tomorrow as much as I do now and have my entire life. Third, I want to thank my coaches for the opportunity they gave me to attend this amazing University. I also want to thank my teammates for pushing me everyday, I love every last one of y’all. The memories I have with y’all make me smile and proud to have been your teammate. I have so much love in my heart for all of y’all and hope that you can have that same love for me at the next level. I will be foregoing my senior season and entering the 2018 NFL Draft. Lord, the rest is in Your gracious and powerful hands. Now I’m on to the next chapter!

    A post shared by Kahlil McKenzie (@km1szn) on

    McKenzie put together his best season as a Vol this past year, totaling 36 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and two quarterback hurries. He finishes his Tennessee career with 72 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble, and two passes defended.

    McKenzie came into Tennessee as a highly-rated five-star recruit, but he never quite lived up to that billing while in Knoxville. He found some rhythm on defense as a true freshman near the end of the 2015 season, and he got off to a solid start in 2016 before suffering a season-ending injury in the Vols’ game against Alabama. He only played in seven games in his sophomore campaign, and he came into this past season with more questions than answers so far during his career.

    Though he was able to put up better numbers in 11 games this season than he had in the 20 games in his first two seasons, many will wonder “what could’ve been” with McKenzie during his time at Tennessee.

    McKenzie’s father, Reggie, is the GM of the Oakland Raiders and also played for the Vols.

    The Vols will be losing Kendal Vickers to graduation as well, but Vickers and McKenzie are the only defensive tackles Tennessee is expected to be without for now. Transfers could still happen, but right now the Vols still have Shy Tuttle, Quay Picou, Alexis Johnson, and Eric Crosby on the roster.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.