Born: May 24, 1979
Kareem Michael McKenzie was born May 24, 1979 in Trenton and grew up in Willingboro. He stood over six feet tall by the time he enrolled at Willingboro High in 1993, but did not go out for the Chimeras until his junior year. Despite having just two years of high-school ball under his belt, Kareem was rated the top prep offensive lineman in the nation. He accepted a scholarship from Penn State.
The Nittany Lions went 33–16 in Kareem’s four varisty seasons and won bowl games in his sophomore and junior years. In 2000, Penn State had a rare down year, finishing 5–7. In the 2001 NFL Draft, Kareem was selected in the third round by the Jets. He was the ninth lineman selected, and won a starting job in his second year. The Jets won the AFC East, but lost to the Raiders in the playoffs.
Kareem was particularly adept at run blocking, a skill that had a big impact on veteran Curtis Martin. Martin topped 1,000 yards in each of the Kareem’s first three seasons as a starter, and led the league with 1,697 yards in 2004. He soon earned the nickname the Big Bear.
After four years with the Jets, Kareem changed locker rooms and signed a free agent deal with the Giants. In 2007, Kareem was part of an offensive line that helped New York win the Super Bowl. In 2010, he earned recognition as a first-team All-Pro. The 2011 team returned to the Super Bowl and Kareem collected his second championship ring.
The Giants chose not to re-sign Kareem, and at 32 he decided it was time to retire. He began working toward a masters in clinical psychology, with an eye toward establishing a practice focused on current and retired athletes. Too many of Kareem’s teammates struggled with stress—of competing every week and, later, transitioning into post-football life.