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Drayton ready for the next challenge
Being the first student-athlete from Segerstrom High to attend an Ivy League university is just the first of a long list of goals Kenari Drayton has planned for his future.
Drayton loves football, but he acknowledges science and academics have always had a strong pull with him, something his parents instilled in him while he was growing up.
“He comes from a great family,” Segerstrom football coach Mike Maceranka said. “His mother and father are so down to earth and they raised him well. I coached his older brother, and he and his father have set a great example for him. It’s great to see he’s following in their footsteps.”
As he balances the rigorous demands of football while also participating in internships with various medical clinics in Orange County, Drayton has made the most of his strong support system, which includes his uncle, Eric Dickerson. The former college football and NFL star has played a major role as Drayton’s godfather.
“He was always the second father figure in my life,” Drayton said. “He was always there for me, giving me wisdom and a sense of direction when it came to football, high school and college recruiting.”
Many schools came knocking on the recruiting trail, though none were known as college football powerhouses. A slew of Ivy League universities, from Dartmouth to Yale, pursued Drayton, along with UC Davis, the University of San Diego and most of the schools from the Big Sky Conference.
It was Brown University, however, that grabbed Drayton’s attention and refused to let go.
“Brown had a family feel to it when I was talking to them,” Drayton said. “A lot of coaches I was talking to recruited me, but none of them had that feel like Brown. I just had a certain connection that drew me to the school.”
In the fall, Drayton will become the first student-athlete from Segerstrom to attend an Ivy League university.
“People don’t think of Santa Ana as having great students and athletes,” Maceranka said “To have one of our guys going to an Ivy League school, it’s nice to prove them wrong.”
At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Drayton, who plays tight end and linebacker, stands out among most of his teammates during practices for the Brea Lions Orange County All-Star Game. Drayton was selected to the South team after Maceranka contacted South coach Ernie Bucher.
“(Maceranka) emailed me and said, 'Hey I want to get my guy in this game,' " Bucher said. “I said, 'Coach, say no more. I want him.' It’s been fantastic.”
Drayton said he has loved the interaction with his South teammates, and that being selected to the All-Star Game might have meant more to him than to some of his teammates.
“It’s pretty big, especially since I’m coming from my school (Segerstrom),” Drayton said. “Not a lot of (Segerstrom) guys have been selected in the past, so I’m just glad to be out here again, not only representing Segerstrom, but representing my college, Brown University, and just being out here with a new group of guys.”
The strongest impression Drayton made on Bucher wasn’t on the field. It was when Drayton spoke at the National Football Foundation dinner, which came before rosters were selected for the O.C. All-Star Game. After hearing Drayton speak, Bucher said he hoped he would have an opportunity to work with Drayton in the future.
“Right away I was extremely impressed with his presence, who he was, and what he said,” Bucher said. “I knew I was coaching this All-Star Game and was hoping he would be available to play. I think he’s really come out here and shown his athletic ability, and I think he’s learned a little bit as well.”
Bucher said Drayton stands out with his demeanor, competitiveness and athletic frame.
“He’s a big, long kid,” Bucher said. “I think his best football’s still ahead of him. He’s really stood out with his character and the physical intimidation that he provides.”
Bucher, like Maceranka, isn’t sure where Drayton will ultimately play in college, or perhaps the pros. The two coaches agree Drayton has a lot of physical growth left, but there’s little doubt about his work ethic and drive.
“I think if he continues to get a little bit longer he may end up playing defensive end,” Bucher said. “Or he’ll be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, a type of rush player where he’s pressuring the quarterback with his length and athleticism.”
Drayton doesn’t like looking too far into his football future, especially considering his outside interests. He wants to become a bio-mechanical engineer and plans to pursue environmental science in college too.
Whatever Drayton decides to do in the future, Bucher is confident he will succeed.
“He’s really got that personality that can be a leader,” Bucher said.