ORADELL, N.J. -- The player wearing number 28 in the white jersey, practicing for this weekend’s game on Bergen Catholic High School’s football field, is no ordinary freshman.
His name is Josh Mckenzie.
He’s 14 years old, and catching a lot of flak, following a recently published in-depth profile for the way he’s been training.
The knock on Josh, is that he’s being “engineered,” meticulously monitored, analyzed, fed, and trained to be the perfect athlete.
In other words -- pushed too hard at such a young age.
“There’s people all around the country who work harder than me, I think mine is different because I know it’s gone viral,” McKenzie said.
So PIX11 traveled out to Bergen Catholic to find out if his experience is unique on a team that ranks as one of the best programs not in New Jersey, but the country.
“It comes with the lifestyle, and it comes with the preparation you have growing up,” Jarrett Guarantano said.
Guarantano, the senior starting quarterback, says he knows where McKenzie has been and where he could be headed.
“You have to work hard every day. And Josh is a key example, he works hard every day. And he has since he was six years old. In order to be the best, you have to do that kind of work,” Guarantano added.
Guarantano has already committed to play for the Tennessee Volunteers.
His father Jim, says anyone who’s playing armchair critic or quarterback from the comfort of their living room recliner, simply isn’t aware that the intensity of McKenzie's training regimen, even in middle school is the norm and has been for years.
“So Josh, I completely get. I understand it. When people shake their heads at five, six, seven, ten personal trainers -- we’ve been there and done that seven, ten years ago.”
While Upper East Side parents hire consultants to drill and coach their kids for entrance to pre-school, or a team to guide their young musical geniuses to hit the perfect note.
“I don’t read the articles or the comments. I just go out and play football. It’s the game I love and the game i’ve played all my life,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie says he’s just going to keep his head down -- and stay focused.
Is it possible that he or any of this high flying young athletes, could crack under the pressure of the Friday night lights?
Possibly -- but Josh says he believes in order reach his goals he’s got to put in the work and adds fun is not always going to be in the equation.
“It’s been hard, there are days when I don’t want to train. Or I don’t feel like getting. And I just will myself to go the extra mile some days,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie is expected to start for the Bergen Catholic crusaders during the season home opener Saturday against a powerhouse team from Florida.