Ypsilanti Lincoln junior offensive lineman Tate Mackenzie has been a longtime Michigan football fan, so it was a thrill of a lifetime when his high school coach Chris Westfall took him to Schembecher Hall on Thursday to meet Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh.
But, it was Harbaugh’s scholarship offer to Mackenzie which is something that will stay with him for a long time.
“It was crazy, I mean Harbaugh is pretty much a celebrity, so to be talking to him and him know who I am was crazy,” said Mackenzie, a 6-foot-8, 330-pound tackle who helped Lincoln reach its first regional championship game in school history his sophomore year in 2017. “I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was little. I watch their games and have been a Michigan football and basketball fan.
“I appreciated the offer, was really excited about it (the offer). He told me about what I need to work on. He wanted me to get better with quicker feet and getting better lower body strength, and I can work on that for sure, then we’ll see what happens.
“I mean having Coach Harbaugh tell you to do something related to football, and having Coach (Ed) Warinner there, telling you what to do is great since they know what they’re talking about.”
Westfall feels Mackenzie can play in the Big Ten, talking about his prized lineman’s potential for the past few years, and now seeing his player reach it.
“Harbaugh was really good," Westfall said, "gave him some stuff that he really needed to develop at and it was really important and clear feedback. Obviously, they want to see continued development of him through the summer.
“His pass protection and foot speed need to improve, and his strength needs to continue to improve, but the kid is 6-8 and 330 and he’s not fat and he’s not awkward. He’s really grown into his body. He’s a special physical specimen. He’s the best run blocker that I’ve ever been around and I’m 26 years in.”
Mackenzie played at 6-6, 310 pounds his sophomore year.
“I’m a lot stronger now,” Mackenzie said. “My biggest improvement has been my aggressiveness. I used to be reserved and not coming off the ball like I needed to be. I found a way to get a rage in my head where I could come off the ball, explode off the ball, so that’s by far the thing I’ve improved the most.
“I’ve also got a lot more coordinated. I grew a lot. I was long and lanky and hadn’t grown into my body yet. I’m still not there, but I’m pretty close.”
Mackenzie has offers from Michigan and Toledo. He said he will take his time before committing.
“I want to learn more about things before I make a decision,” said Mackenzie, who has a 3.3 grade-point-average. “When I commit somewhere I’m going to be sure that’s where I’m going.”
Westfall feels Mackenzie will be getting more offers in the months ahead.
“A lot of people have been through, a lot of the MAC, there’s been contact with Michigan State, but they haven’t been in the building yet. Kentucky came through,” Westfall said. “I think this Michigan deal will open the floodgates. He’s doing all the right things. He’s a good student and he’s working his tail off to work on his weaknesses to be as good as he can by the fall.”