When Shaun McKenzie played soccer, he said, "a lot of people thought I played soccer like a football player."
So when McKenzie did not make the Loyola High School soccer team his freshman year, he figured he would give football a chance the following year.
"At first I didn't think I'd make the (football) team, but after I saw they weren't that big, I thought I had a good chance," McKenzie said.
McKenzie, a 5-foot, 9-inch senior middle linebacker/offensive guard, made the most of that chance.
He started for the junior varsity team his sophomore year, then moved up to varsity his junior year, starting in three games after breaking his hand. As a senior, the Sykesville resident became the starting inside linebacker this year and has seen time on the offensive line.
"He's a smart player who plays with a lot of spirit and is physically tough," Loyola head coach Joe Brune said.
On Thanksgiving Day, he played in his final high school game against traditional rival Calvert Hall at Memorial Stadium.
Loyola won, 29-12, to finish the season at 7-2 -- including a 10-0 upset win over Poly earlier in the season.
"Beating Poly earlier this year was great. They were ranked No. 1 (in the metro area by both Baltimore daily newspapers) and were supposed to stomp us, but we held them to no first downs in the first half and kept them off-balance the rest of the way," McKenzie said.
In every sport he has played (he also plays lacrosse), he has always had a knack for defense.
In soccer he played sweeper (the center defender), in lacrosse he plays defense and in football he prefers playing linebacker.
"I like the defensive scheme. In soccer, I was a physical player and was best at slide tackling. Playing linebacker in football, I'm in the middle of everything and get in on a lot of the tackles," McKenzie said.
McKenzie credits Brune for much of his success at linebacker.
"He coaches the linebackers and has pushed me a lot and taught me how to read the different plays and situations," McKenzie said.
"He plays very hard, which rubs off on the other players. He's very intelligent and the others respect his ability to stay calm in tough situations," Brune said One player McKenzie models his game around is Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary.
"He's a great player. He's always in on a lot of tackles and plays with a lot of intensity," he said.
Although he enjoys playing football, McKenzie's favorite sport is lacrosse -- which is the main reason he is at Loyola.
"I went to a private grade school (Holy Family School in Randallstown) and a lot of my friends who I played lacrosse with there came to Loyola," McKenzie said, who has been playing lacrosse since the seventh grade.
Last season, Loyola won the Maryland Scholastic Association and has always been regarded as a top metro lacrosse team.
And while McKenzie has had a few colleges looking at him as a football player, more colleges appear interested in his lacrosse skills.
At this point, McKenzie is not sure where he will attend college but said Cornell University is a possibility.
He has a 3.8 cumulative grade point average and would like to study pre-medicine.