Raiders GM McKenzie to son on college pick: 'Go with your gut'

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie's resume at the collegiate and NFL levels would make most people jealous. Be it his time at Tennessee as a player to stints in the league with the Raiders as a linebacker next to Matt Millen to his time with the Green Bay Packers' front office, it's quite a list.

But perhaps his most significant achievement is the one that had him beaming Wednesday at The Opening -- the all-star recruiting event held at Nike's world headquarters.

McKenzie's son, Kahlil, is considered one of the top defensive tackles in the country among the class of 2015 and was more than impressive during one-on-one drills against the best offensive linemen coaches could find.

"It's great to be a dad watching this stuff. I'm used to watching players, but this is fun," McKenzie said. "I'm vacationing."

The affable front office executive still couldn't turn off his sense of scouting and caught himself trying to flip the switch to off when it comes to evaluating players, even though the ones at The Opening are years younger than the ones he's used to watching.

Yet, one couldn't help but notice how much he enjoyed being part of the crowd. While a few observers recognized who he was and approached him for a friendly conversation or two, most did not and he was allowed to watch Kahlil in peace most of the afternoon.

In a way, it was very reflective of McKenzie's attitude when it comes to his son's recruitment as one of the top players on the West Coast -- present when needed but observing from afar for the most part.

"I've been hands on, but it's more in terms of personal and character development," he said. "I'm a big-picture guy and (Kahlil's) done well with that. I let the people that work with him, let them handle it. He does love to come to the office, though. He'll watch film and watch some of the guys and talks with some of the players. He's always looking to get better.

"I've been hands off on the field. All that technique stuff, I just tell him to play hard."

The younger McKenzie is set to make his commitment Thursday night on ESPNU and has narrowed his choices to Arizona and his father's alma mater, Tennessee, which has made a hard push to land Kahlil. There weren't a ton of college choices for Reggie coming out of high school as a Knoxville native who was an All-State linebacker in the early 1980s, but his son has his pick of the litter.

Regarded by most to be a four- or five-star-caliber recruit, Kahlil was a standout on California powerhouse De La Salle High during his junior season. He's drawn offers from Alabama, Florida, USC and others, but is finally ready to pull the trigger and commit to a school after a hectic recruiting process the past few months.

"It's tough because I was unable to go on any of his unofficial visits with him because it was right in the middle of my draft and free agency," Reggie McKenzie said. "I just talked to him before he left and made sure he asked the right things. We go over the coaches and some of the defenses in terms of what they would look for him to do. It was tough to not be a part of things from a travel standpoint but I'm always involved."

Although there's some pressure for Kahlil to follow in his father's footsteps and don the Volunteers' orange, the Raiders general manager insists he's not pushed any school on his son and wants him to make his own decision as to where he'll spend the next few years.

"I've really been trying to stay out of it and just let my son do his thing," McKenzie said. "Go with your gut is what I tell him."

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter *@BryanDFischer.*

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