Isaiah McKenzie has not only appeared in every game this season, he has done so as Georgia’s leading receiver in both yards and touchdowns.
The junior wideout has taken quite a few hard shots from defenders in the process, too. But with each hit, he has been able to get up without exiting a game for good. One recent hit in particular came against Auburn, with McKenzie streaking down the right sideline and catching a perfectly-thrown pass from Jacob Eason in between the cornerback and safety.
McKenzie then took a hard hit to the turf. He held onto the ball and was able to get up without an ailment.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound receiver has also been able to keep his dangerous speed and agility intact all year long, as any lingering effects from his hamstring injuries are long gone.
McKenzie, since high school, has dealt with various hamstring ailments. He has injured both since coming to Georgia, which led to an up-and-down sophomore season in terms of his availability. But McKenzie has posted 526 receiving yards and six touchdowns, along with 131 rushing yards and two touchdowns, thanks to his health on the playing field in 2016.
McKenzie credited director of sports medicine Ron Courson, along with the strength and conditioning team led by Scott Sinclair and Ed Ellis, for being able to avoid injury.
"They came in and helped me with my hamstrings, the things I needed work on," McKenzie said. "They got me stronger, faster."
One member on Georgia’s strength and conditioning staff McKenzie singled out is assistant Aaron Feld. Feld. Feld got with McKenzie early on to give him tips and advice on how to strengthen his hamstrings.
Feld had McKenzie partake in specific exercises to work on healing his hamstrings, which also doubled as a means of injury prevention. McKenzie hasn’t exhibited any major injury concerns, which has benefited the Bulldogs in a big way.
"I just took a big step and worked on what I needed to work on to stay healthy," McKenzie said. "I credit Coach Feld for helping me out."
It has not always easy for McKenzie, generally being the smallest player on a football field and taking crushing hits from bigger players. But McKenzie has upped his regimen to do his best to ensure playing every week.
Running back Sony Michel, who has known McKenzie since playing high school ball together at American Heritage in Plantation, Florida, said he has noticed his teammate do more to keep himself on the football field.
"He’s just been working hard at being a great player overall, taking care of his body. He’s been in the training room for maintenance," Michel said. "He works hard on the practice field. When you work hard, great things happen."
Being healthy and staying on the field has helped McKenzie as a leader too.
Since he has been able to practice each week and play on Saturdays, McKenzie has been able to not only be a vocal presence to his teammates but display his love for the game with each route he runs.
Sophomore receiver Michael Chigbu said McKenzie has been an inspiring presence all year long.
"Isaiah shows so much passion. I love being on his team," Chigbu said. "He shows true passion for the game. He fuels me sometimes. He shows how much he loves us, how much he loves football. People like him help keep us focused and keep us motivated."