Zenner prepares for NFL draft

By ROBERT MYERS Sportswriter

Zach Zenner continues to keep himself busy, even without classes to worry about.

In fact, the former SDSU star running back hasn’t been in Brookings since the end of fall semester, instead finding himself honored in several cities across the country and preparing for a shot at the NFL.

Zenner’s journey began in Philadelphia, Pa. on Dec. 16 where he accepted the inaugural Mickey Charles Award given to the FCS’s most outstanding student athlete.

Roughly two weeks later, he found himself with 23 other football players who shared his involvement in the community and performance on the football field as they were honored during halftime of the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La. as members of the Allstate Good Works Team.

“It was cool – one, to experience those cities, and two, to be a part of those events,” Zenner said. “It was really cool actually [to meet the Good Works Team]. It made me kind of realize that a lot of people are doing a lot of good stuff out there.”

Then, as students returned to classes, Zenner headed to Tampa Bay, Fla. for a week of practice leading up to the East-West Shrine Game.

“It was an honor to be a part of that deal, but that was fun,” Zenner said. “It was difficult, challenging, but I thought the coaches did a nice job in practice, making sure everyone got in and everyone got a shot to show what they could do.”

In the end, the East ended up defeating the West by a final of 19-3 with Zenner receiving only minimal game action, but he still made several headlines that week when a five-year-old boy’s mom sent out emails in appreciation for the way Zenner bonded and played football with her son while Zenner and other players visited the Shriners’ Hospital for Children in Tampa Bay.

 Zenner also met up with former NDSU running back John Crocket, who joined him in the West’s backfield.

“We were on the same team, we were in meetings together all the time,” Zenner said. “We hung out quite a bit together that week.”

Now, Zenner can be found in Dallas, Texas as he trains for the NFL Combine which will be held mid-February in Indianapolis, Ind. where he will be the first Jackrabbit invited since 1999. While participating in the event, he and over 300 other draft-eligible invitees will show off their skills and face in-depth evaluation as NFL teams mull their options for the 2015 Draft which begins April 30.

“[The training] is hard, but it’s supposed to be hard, and I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t,” Zenner said. “In a sense, that’s my only focus. … We’re not just working to get in shape, we’re working to pass all of the combine tests that there are.”

Even though training for the combine means incredible amounts of work, Zenner said that it is finally giving him a chance to slow down and stay in one spot.

“It’s been crazy,” Zenner said. “I’m sort of settling into a routine now. At first it was kind of tiring, just with the travel, but now I’ve settled into a decent routine because I’m going to be here in Dallas training over the next couple weeks until the Combine.”

Zenner may be in the midst of new experiences and uncharted waters as SDSU’s most touted draft prospect in some time, but he has had plenty of help navigating the process.

“My agent has done a good job preparing me for what’s to come,” Zenner said. “And also there’s an aspect of the training here in Dallas that includes preparation for what the Combine will actually be like, not just the skill tests.”

While at the Shrine Game, Zenner had the opportunity to meet with NFL teams and will certainly have more meetings in the future. One thing he said he’s taken away from those meetings in terms of teams’ impressions of him is that they like his character and background. And it’s a character that he doesn’t plan to alter in the coming months.

“I’m just trying to be myself,” Zenner said. “I’m not trying to be anyone that I’m not, and I think whatever is meant to happen will, and hopefully people see something that they like.”

As for Zenner’s future, much is still to be determined, but he said both he and his fiancé are excited about it. Next fall could see him playing on one of 32 NFL teams or it could see him at medical school, USD is one option as he has been accepted.

“USD is a great school and I’m staying in the state of South Dakota – which are both positive things in my book,” Zenner said. “As far as USD as the Coyotes, I won’t be able to cheer for their sports’ teams, but the med school does a great job in preparing people for being a doctor and that’s really what it’s all about.”