The Godfather of Vandy's defensive line

Defensive tackle Ralph McKenzie had one of his team's biggest defensive plays of the year vs. fourth-ranked Georgia, a sack of David Greene in the end zone that gave Vanderbilt a 2-0 lead. In this VandyMania interview, the gregarious 6-4, 300-pounder from Southfield, Mich. talks about playing defensive tackle, as well as his favorite movies of all time.

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VandyMania: The safety against Georgia had to have been a highlight of your year so far. The defense played a terrific half of football, and that was the only score by either team in the first half. Go back and tell us what happened on that play.

Ralph McKenzie: We had them backed up field-position-wise, and we were just trying to keep the field position. You don't ever really expect a safety, but it just happened that way. I stepped up and made a play with what they had given us. Everybody was doing their job on that play-- I'm sure if I hadn't made that play, somebody else would have. There were a bunch of guys getting in the backfield.

VM: Does it make it any better that you sacked one of the top quarterbacks in college football [David Greene] on that play?

Ralph: Really, you look at each team individually, but you play them all with the same intensity week to week. You take them one week at a time. You try not to let any hype get to you. You just try to play your game and do your best.

VM: Could you explain how the rotation plan works for the defensive tackles? There are four of you, but it seems like any combination could be in at any time, and there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason as to who starts.

Ralph: The thing about the defensive tackles is that we're all interchangeable. We play right, left, it doesn't really matter. I play both sides. We kind of rotate ourselves in at times. We just look on the field and see if a guy is tired, and we'll come in and tap them to come out.

VM: Is it coached, where you're going to line up? When you're in the defensive huddle, do you always come to the line knowing exactly where you're going to line up, or do you just play it by ear sometimes?

Ralph: When the two tackles are in, we know who will be playing each side. If I was in there with Aaron Carter, I'd be right tackle, and he'd be left. If Matt Clay came in, I'd be on the right side. But if Trey Holloway came in, I'd move to the left and he'd play right. If Clay and A. C. were out there, same thing. Clay would be on the left side, and A. C. would be on the right. When we see the other person out there, we know where we're supposed to be.

VM: You're a junior in the classroom, but a sophomore on the field. Are you one of those guys on the five-year plan?

Ralph: I'm hoping for a fifth year. I would love to be around for a fifth year. I'm studying Economics and Sociology, a double-major.

VM: What kind of things do you like to do for fun?

Ralph: I have a lot of movies, so I like to watch movies. I love all kinds of movies. My time is pretty limited with studying and all, but...

VM: What are some of your all-time favorites?

Ralph: Godfather, you know? They're classics! All three of them. I could watch all three straight through without stopping, any day.

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Photos by Brent Wiseman, copyright 2003 for VandyMania.

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