By Tyler Scott, Southern Oregon Sports Information Director
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With National Football League fall camps beginning this week across the country, former Southern Oregon wide receiver Cole McKenzie (Red Bluff, Calif./Red Bluff) will represent the Raiders 3,000 miles away from Ashland as he tries to earn a spot on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 2013 roster.
After signing with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in April, McKenzie had been cut by the team during the summer. On the eve of training camp, however, the 2012 NAIA All-American received the call that the team wanted to bring him back in.
"Tuesday morning the signing was official and he flew to Jacksonville today and is signed and ready to go," SOU offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht said.
McKenzie set SOU program records with 1,661 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns for the Raiders in 2012. He set single-game records with 19 catches and 265 yards in the Raiders' NAIA Quarterfinals loss to Morningside.
Fasnacht said that the previous cut was likely a product of financial maneuvering between NFL Players' Association requirements and contractual needs for the team. Tuesday's re-signing indicates that the team was impressed with McKenzie's work in the spring.
"Two days before camp they released three wide receivers and immediately got on the phone and brought him back, so he must have done a good job at his rookie OTA," Fasnacht said.
The Jaguars go into training camp with a lot of uncertainty at receiver. Top returner Justin Blackmon is reportedly recovering from groin surgery and will miss the first four games of the regular season due to suspension. Fasnacht pointed out that McKenzie is the second-tallest wide receiver on the Jacksonville roster.
"He's in a position where receiver is an open position for them right now," Fasnacht said. "Physically, it looks like he has a chance to do some things; if you read the local press, receiver is a huge need that they're trying to fix. If he can do something good, he'll have a chance to stick there."