Gain Through Loss: The Zweizig story

Gain+Through+Loss%3A+The+Zweizig+story

Drew Friedman

Photos by Hana Isihara ‘17

Most people don’t get a second shot in life. And then there’s senior Zach Zweizig.

Two years ago, when Zach was a sophomore and the starting quarterback for the Lafayette football team, his dad, who was his biggest fan, told him he would beat Lehigh. But a week and a half before the much-anticipated Lehigh game, the elder Zweizig suffered a stroke that would claim his life a few days later.

Devastated, Zach felt his love for football start to slip away. Still, he wanted to honor his father’s memory so he played a single series in the Lehigh game and threw a touchdown pass. It was a nice tribute, but it didn’t weigh heavily in the final score. Lehigh won the game 38-21.

End of story? Not exactly.

But despite every challenge fate could throw at Zach Zweizig, he somehow ended up under center in the biggest Lafayette-Lehigh game of them all. And this time, as if Zach were following a Hollywood script, he did exactly what his father predicted: he beat Lehigh.

It was a dream come true. But Zach had to go through his share of football nightmares to achieve it.

Since first grade, Zach’s father was his biggest motivator, telling him to stick with the sport despite his lack of interest in the defensive side of the game. Eventually Zach would extinguish all options, besides quarterback that is.

“My father told me to try out for QB in seventh grade, and with convincing I did it,” Zweizig said. “I wanted action. I wanted to be in every play.”

His passion for this position slowly allowed him to develop into a starting quarterback for Wilson High School, and eventually leading his team to the playoffs. That is after breaking most of professional QB Chad Henne’s school records.

Just as Zweizig’s career was taking off-and coaches all over the country were contacting him-he injured his shoulder.

“My senior year, I dislocated my throwing shoulder in week three, and it sidelined me for four weeks,” Zweizig said. “Doctors thought I might not be able to throw again. All they said is it isn’t going to get better unless you throw. My coaches told me you can’t hurt it anymore, you got to fight through the pain.”

After taking time off, Zweizig returned to throw a record 54 pass attempts in the state playoffs.

“Every single throw absolutely killed my shoulder. All the schools that were talking to me dropped me after my injury,” Zweizig said.

Just as he was seeing teams distance themselves, Lafayette came into the picture showing interest in the 6’5” athlete.

“A week before signing day my senior year, I didn’t know where I was going,” Zweizig said. “Lafayette convinced me between academics, and the facilities that it was the place for me.”

The Wyomissing native watched most of his games from the sideline, learning from his fellow quarterbacks until his sophomore season. Half way through his second season in Maroon and White, he was announced as the starter taking over for then senior Andrew Shoop. In the second to last game of the season against Fordham, Zweizig received news from back home.

“I found out that my father suffered a severe stroke, and coaches told me you don’t have to play,” Zweizig said. “I told them I want to play and be there for my team and teammates.”

His father passed away the following weekend, leaving Zach at a disconnect from the sport he played his whole life.

“My father had seen me playing football my entire life,” he said. “He was the reason I started playing, and continued playing the sport I know love. After he passed away, my love for football kind of went away.”

“He felt he couldn’t continue football because that is what connected him and his father,” said longtime girlfriend, junior Veronica Lloyd. “I told him to look at it the other way, and finish out his football career in his memory.”

“Going into my junior year, I knew I was the starting quarterback and I didn’t know if I wanted to play,” Zweizig said. “During the offseason workouts I wasn’t there mentally and physically and for the summer I only came up one time for a summer workout, which is pretty bad for the starting QB.”

With time during the offseason to ponder over his decision, Zweizig, with help of his friends and family, decided to return to the sport. However, the quarterback had a series of concussions in the beginning of the season, ending his season and threatening the rest of his career.

“What happens if I regret the decision to not return, and play for my father and grandfather?” Zweizig said. “I wanted to play for them. My mom also kept bugging me saying I just want to see you throw one more time, just one pass. I had family members swinging me both ways, some saying you cant play again you would risk permanent brain injury, and others saying I should have one more try.”

His mom received her wish, not only watching her son throw one more pass, but 23 in the 150th game of the Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry. With second stringer, sophomore Blake Searfoss going down the Tuesday before the big game, head coach Frank Tavani gave #8 the nod.

“We all rallied around him, some saying they knew he was going to have this moment, others pumping him up for a once in a lifetime moment,” Tavani said. “We had full confidence that Zach could do the job, and look what happened, he finished his career with a touchdown pass in the biggest game of the biggest rivalry in college football.”

Lafayette not only rallied behind the senior, they defeated their long time rivals 27-7, ending the game on a fade pass to freshman Matt Mrazek in the corner of the endzone.

“We had full confidence that Zach could do the job, and look what happened, he finished his career with a touchdown pass in the biggest game of the biggest rivalry in college football,” Tavani said.

“It still doesn’t feel real to me,” Zweizig said. “When Blake went down it came to realization I would have one more chance to play for Lafayette. Just winning the game is unreal. I thank all of my coaches and teammates for supporting me throughout my career at Lafayette.”

Zach’s story is not only as Tavani put it “something you make a movie from,” but is also motivation for athletes everywhere.

“When I first decided to come back, I did not even think about playing, but this just shows everyone that you always have to be prepared for when your number gets called,” Zweizig said.

“Over these past few years we have gotten close, and not only has he learned from me, but I have definitely learned from him,” Tavani said. “He is such a great young man, a good leader to our football team and to our young players. He has taught all of the players that if you work hard, and weight your turn your time will come.”

Senior quarterback Zach Zweizig looks for a target to throw to against the Lehigh sec- ondary.
Senior quarterback Zach Zweizig looks for a target to throw to against the Lehigh secondary.
Senior quarterback Zach Zweizig looks for a target to throw to against the Lehigh sec- ondary.
Senior quarterback Zach Zweizig looks for a target to throw to against the Lehigh secondary.