KANSAS CITY, Mo. — NFL rivalries aren’t what they once were but if anything can redefine the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry for the modern era, it just might be the father and son duo of Reggie and Kahlil McKenzie.
The son – born Reginald Kahlil McKenzie Jr. – threw down the gauntlet quickly, vowing “to whoop up on” the Raiders – where father Reggie reigns as general manager – “twice this year and the next year, and the next year and the year after that.”
Dad Reggie said much went through his mind after the Chiefs selected his son in the sixth round of the NFL draft on Saturday. The Chiefs plan to convert the former Tennessee defensive tackle to offensive guard.
“I got a text from Charles Woodson, he said, ‘your son has to retire, there’s no way he’s going to put that red helmet on his head,’” the elder McKenzie said. “Part of me felt that way but in all seriousness, it’s a good opportunity for him and I was hoping that he would land at a spot that would grow him to that position.”
McKenzie entered Tennessee as the nation’s sixth-best recruit and the No. 1 defensive tackle in the 2015 class according to Rivals. He played both offensive and defensive line in high school but wanted to play defensive tackles in college. The Volunteers had a need there, so that’s where McKenzie played.
But many others think the 6-foot-3, 314-pound hulk with tree-trunk legs – that’s what his dad calls them – can be an outstanding lineman.
“I always told him, ‘We take you, we’re going to put you on the offensive line too,’” Reggie McKenzie said. “He can play D-tackle but I think he could probably be special on the offensive line, and that’s where we were going to play him.”
Also agreeing to the position switch was uncle Raleigh McKenzie, who spent 16 years in the NFL playing offensive line.
“My dad and uncle both thought it would be cool to see me play offensive line, and they always thought that if I wanted to make that switch I could,” McKenzie said.
The Chiefs and some other teams asked McKenzie if would go through offensive line drills during his pro day. He facetiously accused his father being behind the ploy.
“He had a sly little smile on his face,” Kahlil said. “I told him, ‘It’s your conspiracy. You did this.’”
Perhaps surprising to himself, however, the young player discovered he enjoyed it.
“I did those drills, and they felt really good,” he said. Just being able to go through them, and, one, just feeling like they came naturally, and knowing how I play the game, knowing a lot of those things could translate into being a very good offensive lineman.
“It made it just a no‐brainer decision for me. This would be a really good step moving forward.”
Area scout Pat Sperduto thought of the idea of moving McKenzie when he watched him play during his freshman season. He saw a strong base and tight hands on a heads-up player who could make the transition.
“He plays with such a strong base, he might be a pretty good one,” Sperduto said of moving McKenzie to guard. “So that was kind of the projection. We said, ‘Hey, let’s really take a look at this.’ To our credit, to the guys up stairs, they did a good job to move up and take him.”
Just a few minutes into his career as a professional offensive lineman, McKenzie already thinks of himself that way.
“I prefer to play football,” McKenzie explained on whether he prefers offensive or defensive line. “Now being an offensive lineman, that’s what I prefer to play.”
The McKenzie family now stands as a house divided. McKenzie posted a photo on Twitter taken of himself talking to the Chiefs on the phone. Many of the friends and family in the photo wore black and silver, including one wearing a shirt proclaiming, “Real men wear black.” But dad says he’s proud of his son, and Kahlil now he’s family remains in his corner.
“My dad’s happy for me. The rest of the family, they’re happy as well,” he said. “It’s just going to make for a lot more family rivalries. We’re a competitive family at nature, so we compete at everything we do.”
And that’s why an old rivalry might find a new way to remain relevant in an age of dying rivalries.
“This just adds one more ripple into that,” McKenzie said. “I’m excited to get to Kansas City and just help these Chiefs, one, whoop up on the Raiders, and whoop up on the rest of the NFL.”