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July 10, 2014

Family ties bind on Rocky Top

The smile on 4-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie's face was bright and large just like his game on the field. But on this night, that smile was surpassed by a greater one over 2500 miles away. Grandfather, Sam watched with pride as his grandson committed to his hometown Tennessee Volunteers. The patriarch of the McKenzie family loved to watch his twin sons Reggie and Raleigh dominate on Rocky Top and now he'll get to see another generation do his thing.

"I don't get out of the house much, but I'll have to get out and see him play," Sam McKenzie said. "I've only been to one game since (Reggie and Raleigh) graduated and that was when they honored them a few years ago. It gives me reason to go again and I still have my Tennessee (gear)."

Another McKenzie in Knoxville on a more permanent basis means more family gatherings and the elder McKenzie cherishes his time with family.

"It means everything," Sam McKenzie said. "I couldn't ask for more. I figured it was going to go this way. Just knowing him and the other kids, I can feel what they are going to do. I asked him if he signed back in the (Spring) and he just smiled at me. I had a feeling then."

The younger McKenzie cherishes his family time as well.

"For me family is a big thing," McKenzie said back in February. "It's not a deal breaker, but obviously it plays a pretty significant role. It's a bonus that my family is and would be that close. That I can go by and see my granddaddy and my uncle if they need me."

McKenzie adds to a Tennessee class that is now firmly inside the top 10 in the Rivals team rankings with the Vols coming in at #5. McKenzie made the decision to join the Vols, not because his father and uncle played at Tennessee or due to family ties, but more because head coach Butch Jones made him priority #1.

"I love that he is hands on," McKenzie said in early June. "Most schools put another coach on you, but coach Jones likes to be involved and has really made me a key. He lets me know how important I am. He sent me a direct message pic of him in bucket hat because I like to wear bucket hats. Shows me that he pays attention."

McKenzie joins a long list of "Legacy" recruits to have picked Tennessee in the last two seasons. He is arguably the most important recruit to follow in the family tradition of wearing the orange and white due to his position. The Vols have struggled to land top tier defensive tackles in recent years and now they have one of the top interior defensive lineman in the country.

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