In the absence of Jasper Brinkley from camp this past week, it was reported that Tyrone McKenzie was playing with the first-team defense at middle linebacker. His story has been told in other places (including a recent article from one of the local Twin Cities papers that I can't seem to find at the moment), but it really bears further looking into for fans of the team. You may wind up rooting for him to stick with the Minnesota Vikings.
McKenzie played at three different schools in college. . .now, upon hearing that, the first inclination might be to think in the negative, but that wasn't the case with McKenzie at all. He started out at Michigan State, where he played sparingly as a freshman. He transferred to Iowa State (the school he had originally committed to before changing his mind and heading to Michigan State) and, after sitting out a year because of transfer rules, he had a big season for the Cyclones, averaging nearly 11 tackles per game.
That summer, however, McKenzie's mother was in a very bad car accident, requiring her to have multiple surgeries. She lost her home daycare business as a result, and McKenzie transferred to the University of South Florida in order to be closer to her and take care of her. He got a hardship waiver from the NCAA to be able to play immediately and, in addition to that, worked the overnight shift at a local Hampton Inn to support his mother while she recovered.
McKenzie was then selected in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, 97th overall, by the New England Patriots. The draft was held on April 25 and 26, 2009. On May 2, 2009, during a Patriots' mini-camp, McKenzie tore his ACL and was put on injured reserve for the season. He was released by the Patriots in 2010, and signed to their practice squad.
The Patriots then cut him from their practice squad, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him up. He made it to the active roster just before the end of the 2010 season, but was released on September 2, 2011 (much to the chagrin of our friends over at Bucs Nation), and the Vikings signed him. He spent the entire 2011 season on the Vikings' practice squad.
McKenzie has middle linebacker size, measuring in at about 6'2" and 245 pounds. The folks over at Mocking the Draft liked him coming out of college, saying that he was highly productive no matter where he was at. With the uncertainty that the Vikings have at the middle linebacker spot right now, there's room for people to emerge, and Tyrone McKenzie may or may not be a legitimate candidate at this point. With the road he's taken to get to this point, it's hard not to hope that he sticks, in my opinion.