There was Jimmermania, Tebowmania and now Linsanity.
Could there be a Jermainia?
The name fits and his personal story has the makings for a good Hollywood movie.
All Jermaine McKenzie has to do is supply the ending.
He beat death, he floundered on the brink of anonymity, and if things go right he could become a household name.
He is further along than you think. His name is being tossed around as a possible draft pick in April when the NFL holds its annual invitation-only, grab-bag party.
The best part is that McKenzie has a little bit of Jimmer Fredette, Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin inside of him.
He didn’t play basketball at BYU, didn’t quarterback the Denver Broncos and doesn’t appear to be in a position to replace Lin as the New York Knicks point guard.
But he has all-star genes flowing throughout his 6-foot, 180-pound frame.
Don’t believe it? Check out his resume.
He averaged 20-plus points per game for Southeast High during a brief stay on the basketball team. On the football field at St. Petersburg Catholic and then Bradenton Prep, he was good enough to get more than 60 offers from the top college programs in the country before signing with Miami.
He went to three high schools in four years and people snicker. But that’s the beauty of it.
The next part of his life reads like a tale from the land of misfortune.
There was that tragic car accident that fractured three of his vertebrae and had people telling him to be glad his was alive and walking.
McKenzie said he would do one better. He would run again and get back his 4.3 speed.
After sitting out his freshman year at Miami to heal, McKenzie returned but couldn’t get back on the field and left.
He transferred to Memphis and put up decent numbers as a receiver, but the coach changed the offense to a run-oriented attack. The quarterback left, and McKenzie followed.
He wound up at Delta State, but couldn’t play. He says Memphis broke a promise and wouldn’t release him.
McKenzie reinvented himself, which makes his story so enticing.
Move over Mike Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and all the others who have made Manatee County cornerback heaven.
McKenzie has transformed himself into a cornerback and turned in a standout performance in the Battle of Florida All-Star game in Boca Raton. He led all cornerbacks with five tackles, and his four solos tied for the team high.
“I like being a cornerback because I don’t have to depend on anyone else. I am island by myself and I love it,” McKenzie says.
The 22 year-old says don’t mistake his confidence for false bravado.
“I am staying humble and working hard,” he says.
A scout came up to McKenzie after the Boca Raton game and told him he could be a million-dollar cornerback.
Think it’s a lie? That was his first game at cornerback in college. His teammate at Miami was Sam Shields, the receiver from Booker High who didn’t play corner until his senior year for the Hurricanes and started for Green Bay’s Super Bowl championship team.
“We talk a lot. He inspires me,” McKenzie says. “I talk to Fabian Washington a lot and Mike and Dominique. I saw how far they went as a cornerback and decided to switch. When I was young I just wanted to catch passes and score touchdowns.
McKenzie reminds you of Jenkins and Rodgers-Cromartie with his size and speed. He ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at Memphis.
You can see for yourself if you don’t believe it.
He is scheduled to play in the Florida Bowl All-Star game March 24 at Raymond James Stadium. The game will pit Florida against the nation. It’s the final collegiate showcase before the April NFL draft.
“They invited me after they saw how I played in the Boca Raton game,” McKenzie says.
This is an opportunity to see a mania before it breaks the egg shell. You might want to be there and say you were the first in your neighborhood to see McKenzie before he became Jermainia.
He is one of 64 players to be invited to the NFL’s Super Combine on Feb. 28 in Detroit. He says scouts told him he can’t go to the Indianapolis Combine because he didn’t play last season.
“Being a receiver has made the transition easier to cornerback,” McKenzie says. “I am soaking up as much knowledge as possible. I hope to follow a path like Sam Shields. Fabian told me to never stop believing in myself; that the most important thing for a cornerback is confidence.”
When McKenzie was a senior at Bradenton Prep, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden wanted him as a cornerback. In his all-star game appearance, McKenzie showed the public that the legendary coach knows a thing or two about judging talent.
Jermainia might be coming your way soon!
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.