Bulldogs Blog

Lady Dogs’ Mackenzie Engram has split loyalties for Georgia-Ole Miss game

Mississippi tight end Evan Engram runs in the end zone on a 21-yard pass reception for a touchdown against Florida State.
Mississippi tight end Evan Engram runs in the end zone on a 21-yard pass reception for a touchdown against Florida State. AP

Mackenzie Engram will be in a unique spot when she and her parents step into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for Georgia’s second road SEC matchup against Mississippi.

Of course, the Lady Dogs’ junior would like for the school she plays basketball for to defeat the Rebels on the gridiron. At the same time, her brother is Mississippi’s Evan Engram, arguably the SEC’s top tight end. She didn’t have to be in this position before, considering Georgia and Mississippi rarely play.

But for one weekend, she’s playing it like Switzerland and going neutral.

"I’d be happy with either team winning," Mackenzie said. "I’m actually going to wear red and white since those are the mutual colors, and have an Ole Miss and a Georgia button on."

With Mississippi averaging 38.3 points per game, it could be a shootout in Oxford. And Evan would likely be a big reason why.

Evan figures to have plenty of opportunities for big plays against Georgia, considering he’s posted games of 121 yards and a touchdown against Florida State and 138 yards and a touchdown against Alabama.

Some of Georgia’s players who are friends with Mackenzie have jokingly told her to tell Evan to "relax" this week when they play the Rebels. Even if it was a serious request, it’s not something in Evan’s blood to do.

Mackenzie recalled a time when the two were in elementary school – she in fourth grade and Evan in fifth grade – and playing football at a local field. She went to run a route against him but he wasn’t having it. Evan, like a typical older brother, tripped her so she couldn’t make a play on him.

"He definitely doesn’t take it easy on me, whether we’re playing football, soccer, kickball, basketball," Mackenzie said. "He definitely likes to win everything. It’s a full-out competition in whatever we do."

While he’d never take it easy on Mackenzie, Evan did give his sister the title of most athletic in the family.

"I’ll give her that. I’ll let her take that crown, for her sake," Evan said at SEC Media Days this past summer. "We grew up pushing each other. I think she’s really good at basketball because of how many times I beat her one-on-one. I take some credit when she has some success."

Given his competitive nature, Evan won’t relax against Georgia. A versatile threat, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties will all have to play a hand in covering him down the field. One busted coverage, however, and Evan could take a play the distance. That has head coach Kirby Smart concerned when preparing for this uptempo Mississippi offense.

"He’s talented. He runs like a receiver," Smart said. "They put him in spots where he can get vertical down the field. The guy runs by DBs, and he’s a tight end. When you’ve got a tight end that runs faster than your DBs you’ve got a problem because he can get matched up on a linebacker. They do a really good job of putting him in situations to get him the ball. He’s a good blocker, too. They don’t ask him to do a whole lot of blocking, but what he has to do he does well."

Another motivating factor for Evan is that this is the first time he’ll face his home-state school. The Engrams are from Powder Springs, and Evan hoped for a Georgia offer. He did receive some mail from the Bulldogs under previous head coach Mark Richt but didn’t get recruited hard by him.

Mackenzie believes there will be something Evan wants to prove to the school that passed him over, even with a new coaching staff in place.

"He did want to come here," Mackenzie said. "But they didn’t recruit him as heavily. I think he wants to come out and have a good game against them."

Mackenzie and her parents plan to get to Mississippi Friday evening so that they’re in place for Saturday’s showdown, which kicks off at noon.

She’s proud of not only the player her older brother has become but of the person he is.

"He loves to make people laugh and feel good," Mackenzie said. "He’s also a really big mentor, you could say. He likes to get involved with the community and reach out to little kids. He’s my brother so I don’t want to brag, but he’s the overall person you want to represent your school."