Sunday afternoon’s NFC playoff first-round matchup against the San Francisco 49ers is important to longtime Green Bay Packers medical director Pat McKenzie Sr.
But so is his family. Which is why he was again in Collegeville Saturday afternoon watching son Kevin (a starting point guard for St. John’s) and Pat Sr. (a Johnnies assistant coach) help their team defeat Bethel 69-55 at Sexton Arena.
“I flew over this morning and I’ll fly back tonight,” said McKenzie Sr., a former Johnnies standout himself who will be on the sidelines at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon.
“Everybody knows it’s a huge priority for me to be with my kids. And it works out great. I got the chance to get everything I needed to get done this morning. And I’ll be back there tonight.”
Then Sunday, he’ll be trying to keep warm. The forecast for Green Bay calls for a high of just five above and a low of possibly -20.
“The big thing for me will be stealing heater time,” McKenzie said with a smile. “When the offense is in the game, their heater will be open. And when the defense is in the game, their heater will be open. So I’ll make sure I stand in front of those. But our equipment people do a fantastic job of making sure everyone out there is wearing the right clothing.”
McKenzie said he is not all that worried about frostbite when it comes to the players on the field.
“We’ve never had anybody develop anything like that in all my years with the team,” he said. “We talk about it. It’s a concern. But the energy level those guys are expending is high enough that frostbite isn’t really a danger on the field. And when they come to the sidelines, we make sure we get them covered up right away.
“The bigger concern would be things like field conditions. Cleats might not grip the way they usually do. And the surface is probably a little rougher. … So those are larger factors.”
Normally, McKenzie’s sons would be tempted to make the trip back home to watch the Packers play in person. But both will be watching from here in Central Minnesota Sunday.
The Johnnies are scheduled to play at Augsburg Monday night, and Pat Jr. is a new parent to 1-month old daughter Evelyn.
“He has a lot of reasons to get over here quite a bit,” Pat Jr. said. “But I think (his granddaughter) is now the No. 1 reason.”
Kevin McKenzie had 11 points Saturday, including three big baskets down the stretch as the Johnnies held off a late Bethel rally.
“It’s awesome the support he shows,” Kevin McKenzie said of his father. “He’s missed very few games in my four years now. No matter what else is going on.”
* Senior wing Seth Marx — who led the team in scoring last season but had been sidelined all of this year after suffering a knee injury in the preseason — saw his first action of the year, finishing with two points in eight minutes of play Saturday.
“I felt good,” Marx said. “I’m still a little out of shape. But that will come.
“They definitely limited my minutes. I don’t think I would have helped the team much if I played much more than that. But it was just good to get back out there.”
Freshman forward Jonah Eisenschenk — the former Rocori standout who transferred from Division II Minnesota-Duluth to St. John’s to start the second semester — was in uniform and eligible to play.
But head coach Jim Smith said the opportunity just wasn’t there to get him into the game.
“He’s only been here a week, but he’s picking things up,” Smith said.