When Vanderbilt dismissed four football players nearly three weeks ago, David King grabbed his phone.
King never remembered Tip McKenzie getting into trouble when he coached him for two years at Trinity Episcopal School in Natchez, Miss. But King wanted to check on his former wide receiver.
“I texted Tip to ask him, ‘Lord, surely that is not you,’ ” King said on Tuesday. “But I never heard from him. I didn’t realize he had gotten a new cell phone number. [Monday] night he texted me and said he was on his way up [to Nashville] with an attorney.”
McKenzie was one of four football players who were kicked off the team on June 28 amid a sex crimes investigation by the Metro Nashville Police Department. On Monday, Vanderbilt released the names of the four dismissed players — redshirt freshmen Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenzie, Brandon Banks and Cory Batey, and junior college transfer Brandon Vandenburg. None of the players have played in game at Vanderbilt.
No arrests have been made, and the investigation, involving the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney’s office, is ongoing.
McKenzie, 18, was a two-year starter for King, and played wide receiver, running back, quarterback, safety and returned kicks. King, now the headmaster and head football coach at Adams County Christian School in Natchez, said McKenzie was a disciplined student who was at school every day.
“I don’t remember him having a single discipline referral sent to the office the two years he was under my tutelage,” King said. “He was never in trouble one time that I remember. Tip always had his mind set on where he wanted to be athletically. He made his grades and was never a problem that I recall one single time.”
Batey was a wide receiver and defensive back at Ensworth and helped lead the Tigers to consecutive Division II-AA state championships. Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers could not be reached for comment.
Messages left for Danny Hayes, who coached Banks at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md., were not returned. Banks, 19, was a defensive back and his brother, Andrew, played at Middle Tennessee State from 2007-11.
Vandenburg attended College of the Desert Community College in Palm Desert, Calif., and was ranked as the third-best junior college tight end in the country, according to Rivals.com. College of the Desert coach Dean Dowty did not return a message. His high school coach, Darrell Lewis, was not made available for comment by Xavier College (Calif.) Prep athletic director Mark Campbell.
All four players were recruited by third-year coach James Franklin’s staff.
“I don’t remember any incident that he was ever in trouble for,” King said. “Let’s face it, Vanderbilt doesn’t recruit kids, typically, that would … they do their background checks pretty good. I would think they had done their homework. Coach Franklin came down here himself and recruited him.
“I don’t know anything about the case. I hope justice is served, but I hope Tip is not guilty of anything.”