Photo credits: Danny Aguilar via wcupagoldenrams.com
West Chester University’s football team is coming off of an impressive 7–4 season in 2022. They will look to build on this performance in 2023; however, they will have to do so without one of their biggest contributors from a year ago. Ja’Den McKenzie, formerly the starting running back for the West Chester Golden Rams, recently transferred for his final year of eligibility to the University of Rhode Island. He has built an impressive college resume thus far, rushing for over 2,603 yards and scoring 30 touchdowns in 34 games.
McKenzie has a deep love for football, something that he developed at a very young age. “I started playing football around the age of four. My brothers and my sister played football too. I was always around the game of football and I eventually fell in love with the game. What I love most about the sport is building bonds with the guys that I go to war with every Saturday. I love the preparation and the grind that has to go with it and the fact that it is a very physical game.” McKenzie also added that he loves seeing his family, friends and fans in the stands and getting the chance to represent his school and all of the players that played before him.
Prior to his college career, he was a decorated athlete at Springfield High School where he was a part of two Central League championship teams. He was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the football, rushing for over 3,000 yards on offense and compiling 51 tackles and four interceptions on defense. McKenzie enrolled at West Chester in the fall of 2018, playing 34 games in three seasons. He missed the 2021 season thanks to the league-wide cancellation of games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This left him with one more year of eligibility left. He chose to attend the University of Rhode Island for his last season in order to pursue his dream of playing Division I football. Elaborating on this further, McKenzie said, “ It means a lot for me to play Division 1 football. Always been a goal of mine to play D1 since I was in high school. Now that I got a chance it is special to me to give it all that I have. One thing I bring to Rhode Island is a competitor mindset which is working hard, being a leader on and off field and a winning DNA.”
While this will be his last guaranteed season, McKenzie has bigger goals in mind: playing professionally in the NFL. This goal will not be a walk in the park, as The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reports that only 1.6% of college football players make it to the league. McKenzie has the talent, dedication and physical attributes to go pro and will certainly be on the NFL’s radar due to his already impressive college resume that he will have the opportunity continuing expanding in 2023. When asked to give a message to the NFL, McKenzie said “They will get a player that is hard working and believes he can play with the best and greats. I’m also a player that can change the game just with one play.”
Whether or not he chooses to pursue this as his career path, McKenzie is content knowing that he gave it all he had every single time he stepped foot on the field.
Erick Klambara is a fourth-year media and culture major with a minor in journalism. Ek924666@wcupa.edu