Jimmy Zajac Graphic

As the annual Valpo Football Banquet has just passed, now seems like the best time to reflect on my football career here at Valparaiso University. It was filled with ups and downs, along with many changes and it wasn’t always easy or enjoyable. You can see that clearly as only 10 other players in my recruitment class made it through all four years. But the one thing I do know is that my time playing football was exciting and rewarding.

I came in as a very lanky 6 foot 6 inches, 235 pound defensive end. By the end of my senior year, I was 295 pounds and was starting at right tackle. After my freshman year, I was moved to the offensive line, and after my junior year, a new coaching staff came in. I didn’t play much my first three years. However, during my senior season, after putting in many hours of hard work, I finally earned a starting position. It wouldn't be easy though, as my first career start was in San Diego against the three time defending league champions. 

On that day, I proved to myself that I could still do it. I started five games in a row, the fifth one playing against Butler. I didn’t know this then, but this one would be my last. Late in the first quarter, a defensive lineman landed on my right ankle, tearing numerous ligaments. This in turn required surgery, which put me out for the rest of the season. 

I’m extremely thankful to have been able to play the game that I love with an amazing group of teammates. Throughout my journey, I learned a lot about mental and physical toughness. I learned a great deal about pushing through adversity. I learned about persevering. But most of all, it taught me how to be a better man. The game of football teaches you many life lessons, and that may be what I’m most thankful for as a student of the game. 

I’m grateful for all of the coaches I’ve had while at Valpo. They have helped me out in so many ways, and helped me grow into the person I am today. I’m also thankful for my teammates and the memories we have shared over the past four years. This entire experience has been life changing and so rewarding, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have been given the opportunity to play here.

 

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