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20 For 20 New Inductee: Tyrone McKenzie

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Looking back, we should have put USF’s single-season tackle leader in the original group of 15. Better late than never, though.

South Florida Bulls v North Carolina State Wolfpack Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Tyrone McKenzie, LB (2007-08)

To add the five new names to our 20 For 20 list, Collin, Ken and I started the process by putting all the new nominees and everyone from our 2010 honorable mention list on the board and getting to work. But we forgot someone back then, and we had forgotten him again this time.

Fortunately that amnesia didn’t last. So today, we are righting a historical wrong. Tyrone McKenzie is hereby recognized as one of the best players in USF football history.

Tyrone’s story at USF had a very difficult beginning. He had been an all-Big XII linebacker at Iowa State in 2006, starting 12 games, recording 129 tackles and forcing four fumbles. But when his mother, a widow, was in a serious car accident and couldn’t keep her business going, the former Riverview High School star came back home to help support his family. He was a student at USF by day and a front desk manager at a Hampton Inn overnight.

McKenzie was also a football player by afternoon. A fantastic football player. Given a hardship waiver by the NCAA so he could play immediately, Tyrone stepped right into USF’s starting lineup in 2007, filling Stephen Nicholas’s strongside linebacker spot with aplomb. All he did that season was set the Bulls’ single-season tackle record with 121, a mark that still stands. He added 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles (including one caused by a textbook hit on Steve Slaton in USF’s famous win over West Virginia), and two fumble recoveries.

The 2008 season wasn’t as productive for USF, but it was another outstanding year for McKenzie. He made 116 more tackles in his senior year, still tied for third-most in a season in school history. Tyrone also had a career-high 14.5 tackles for loss, barely missing the top 10 most TFLs in a season, plus an interception and a sack. He averaged over 10 tackles per game in a USF uniform, and had three games with 15 tackles or more. He led his team in tackles in 14 of the 26 games he played for the Bulls.

The only reason Tyrone McKenzie isn’t all over the USF career record books (and I think the only reason we didn’t put him on our original 15 For 15 list) is because he was only on the team for two years. But if his season at Iowa State had happened at USF, he would be just one tackle behind Kawika Mitchell’s career record in one less year. He was a rock-solid, hard-hitting, do-it-all linebacker, and like the player he had replaced, he had NFL written all over him. If we can put Chad Barnhardt on our list for two very good years and Andre Hall on the list for two dominant ones, then McKenzie definitely belongs.

Tyrone was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his pro career was derailed by a knee injury he suffered in the Patriots’ rookie minicamp the week after being drafted. He spent 2009 on injured reserve and didn’t make it off the Pats’ practice squad in 2010. When he was released, his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him and he played the last three games of the season. (At the time, he was only the second former Bull to play in a regular-season game for the Bucs.) McKenzie also appeared in all 16 games for the 2012 Minnesota Vikings.

Click on the “20 For 20” box at the top of this story to see all previous inductees. Five new players are being added to the original group of 15 this year, and they are being announced in alphabetical order. The first three new players were B.J. Daniels, Andre Davis, and Marlon Mack.