AP Sports Writer
LORMAN, Miss. (AP) — Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson said former Vanderbilt player Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie is playing football for the Braves because he believes the freshman is “100 percent innocent” of the rape charges he faces in Nashville, Tenn.
McKenzie, 19, and three other former Vanderbilt players are charged with raping an unconscious Vanderbilt student at a campus dormitory in June. The four were dismissed from the university June 29.
“If I ever find anything or if I can get any proof that he is guilty, he will be suspended from our football team,” Hopson told The Associated Press on Thursday. “From everything I’ve gotten, from every resource, this kid is 100 percent innocent.”
McKenzie, who is from Woodville, Miss., returned three kickoffs for 80 yards against Mississippi State last weekend in a 51-7 loss.
The story of McKenzie playing at Alcorn State was first reported by The Nashville Post.
Hopson said he is aware that McKenzie had an Oct. 16 court date in Nashville for discussions in the case. The coach said he cleared McKenzie’s arrival with the school’s athletic director and president.
Hopson, who declined to make McKenzie available for an interview with the AP, said the player enrolled at the school a couple of weeks ago.
“We’ll just let the process take care of itself,” Hopson said. “And let the whole world figure out that this kid, from everything that I know, that this kid did absolutely nothing. So like I said, if somebody can tell me or show me where he did something, then I may sing a different song. But right now, from everything I know, everything that’s been shown to me through numerous phone calls and talking to many people involved in this case, I can’t find anything that says this kid is guilty.”
McKenzie was indicted Aug. 9 on five counts of aggravated rape along with Cory Batey, 19 of Nashville, Tenn.; defensive back Brandon Banks, 19, of Brandywine, Md.; and tight end Brandon Vandenburg, 20, of Indio, Calif., along with two counts of aggravated sexual battery.
According to Nashville police, the four men are charged with raping the unconscious woman inside Vandenburg’s room at Gillette House dormitory early on June 23. University officials checking the dorm’s surveillance in the hallways on an unrelated matter noticed the four’s behavior and notified the Vanderbilt University Police Department the night of June 25. Campus police contacted Nashville’s sex crimes unit June 26.
None of the four played a snap for Vanderbilt last season with McKenzie redshirting in 2012. But the 5-foot-8 receiver had four catches for 83 yards in the Commodores’ spring game — the most yards receiving in the game.
McKenzie was released from jail Aug. 10 after posting $50,000 bond, the lowest bail set for any of the four men.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this story.