McKenzie balances school, sports, parenting
It may sound a bit cliche, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a student with as much courage and willpower than recent Salisbury High School graduate Delano McKenzie.
And you can say that about both his athletic career and life outside of school.
When McKenzie was just 17 years old, he welcomed a beautiful daughter into his world named Isabelle. He wasn’t even legally labeled an adult yet.
On the football field, he was an undersized running back and wide receiver at 5 feet, 8 inches and 140 pounds. He dealt with countless injuries throughout the season, including a broken hand, but never stepped off the field.
For his effort on the field, McKenzie has been named this year’s Salisbury Press Male Athlete of the Year.
“He was able to demonstrate for our younger players that it’s not what happens in life, it’s your response and mindset that matters most,” said Salisbury football head coach Andy Cerco. “Delano is an athlete that on the field sees adversity as an opportunity, not an impossibility.”
Every time that adversity was thrown his way, he’s adapted to it and it has shaped him into a better man. And it starts with when he became a father in December of 2017.
“She is the reason I push myself more and more every day,” McKenzie said. “I definitely see myself as more mature than anyone my age because of her. She’s taught me so many lessons about life without even having to teach me anything. My life is forever changed for the better. She’s truly great and is a light in my life.”
When she’s old enough to hear stories about McKenzie on the football field, she’ll be proud of her dad’s playing days. He played in all 10 of the Falcons’ games last fall, accumulating 305 rushing yards and 270 receiving yards and five total touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and 14.2 yards per catch on a team that often struggled to suit up over a couple dozen players.
McKenzie also totaled 1,052 all-purpose yards as the Falcons’ primary kickoff returner.
“Personally I felt this season went well,” McKenzie said. “I had to deal with injuries...but I wanted to make it a memorable experience and I think I did that. We were a pack of teammates who have been playing since we were kids, so the chemistry was there from Day 1, as was the skill. A 2-8 season doesn’t properly show just how good of a team we were.”
McKenzie suffered that broken hand midway through the season. He couldn’t grip a football right away. In Week 7 at Northern Lehigh, McKenzie watched teammate Timmy Budda leave on an ambulance due to an injury; McKenzie, meanwhile, was dealing with a hamstring injury that made it tough for him to even stand in a wide receiver stance without collapsing.
There was also the moment when he realized the Falcons’ leader, quarterback Jacob Kamp, would not return to the field after halftime.
“I truly wanted to stay out there as much as I could,” McKenzie said. “I remember a game at home. It just hit halftime and my teammate, Jacob Kamp, was going to be out with a concussion and it really hit me that my brothers were dropping like flies and time was running out.”
He believes injuries early on last fall had a significant impact on the team throughout the season, especially with a team low in numbers to begin with.
“The injuries really made an impact in the first half of our first game of the season,” McKenzie said. “Our fullback went down and, in my eyes, it really set the reoccurring tone for the season--that injuries were going to hamper our success as a football program.”
He was also a key cog as a defensive back. He totaled 36 tackles, broke up six passes, and intercepted three more balls (one returned for a touchdown) in 2018.
McKenzie was also busy in the spring time as a runner and jumper on the Falcons’ track and field team. His initial plan was to only run the sprints—and who could blame him with the natural speed he showed on the football field—but eventually got talked into the long jump event.
Midway through the season he started hitting marks he was pleased with, and that opened up the possibility of qualifying for states in either of his two events (100-meter dash or long jump).
“Unfortunately my performances didn’t translate well in districts,” McKenzie said. “I had hoped to go to states in both events—needing a time of 11.30 in the 100-meter dash and 22 feet, 4 inches in the long jump. I unfortunately ran an 11.31 [in the 100-meter dash].”
He still left the meet with three medals around his neck. During the Colonial League Meet, McKenzie placed second in the 100-meter in 11.42 seconds and sixth in the long jump at 20 feet, 8 inches. He improved both of those marks at districts, taking fourth in the 100-meter (11.31 seconds) and third in the long jump (20 feet, 9 inches).
For someone who just started track and field during his junior season, it wasn’t too shabby.
McKenzie, whose football career began when he started playing flag football at Mountainville, will continue next season at Moravian College.
And he’s already getting ready to overcome the next obstacle thrown his way.
“This summer has been a grind,” McKenzie said. “I was the first freshmen to show up for summer workouts, so that sort of put me in a freshman leadership role where I’d show the newer players things that I had been taught, such as techniques, tips and how to do certain workouts.”
He plans to major in economics.