Zacciah Saltzman: Player of the Year Candidate

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According to Merriam- Webster, a leader is “an individual who directs activity or performance of a group to bring to some conclusion.”

Athens tailback Zacciah Saltzman led most of the region, especially on box scores.

Saltzman piled on a colossal 2,112 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground, averaging over eight yards per rush. His most eye-opening performance came against Vinton County in week five when Saltzman rushed for seven touchdowns…in the first half.

Remarkably, Saltzman accumulated those dizzying numbers in his first year as a running back. He had previously lined up at wide receiver during his first three years with Athens while Trae Williams assumed tailback duties.

With the graduation of Williams, Joe Burrow, and a host of other players who guided Athens to the 2014 state finals game, 2015 was bound to be a season of change for Saltzman and the Bulldogs. The newly-minted tailback took it upon himself to help Athens usher in a new era.

The transition required him to take a year off from basketball begin an intense, college-like workout regimen with trainers. While difficult, Saltzman understood the benefits would lead to a successful season with big, consistent numbers.

“I did expect to have as much success because the off season I had was pretty crazy. I was pushing sleds or working out pretty hard every day,” Saltzman said, “So I kind of just expected it out of myself.”

His extra work did not go unnoticed.

“In my time as a coach, I’ve seen very few kids who put in the time and effort that Zacciah did,” Athens head coach Ryan Adams stated, “He never missed a weight room workout and then did additional work. He was always present and it really just is a testament to his work ethic.”

His extra work also showed up in the Athens record books. Saltzman set Athens’s single season rushing record and served as the driving force behind the second-most prolific offense in school history. The numbers impress, but Saltzman conceded that he wouldn’t fret if his record fell.

“I just want our team to keep doing well,” Saltzman explained, “If we win some more TVC titles that’s all I really care about. I just want our coaches to be happy.”

Saltzman hoped his off-season work would translate to another undefeated season and TVC-Ohio title, but the Bulldogs came up short.While his goal was not accomplished, Saltzman stated the failure motivated him and his future.

“I think failure is probably the best way to motivate you so not achieving those goals has definitely driven me this off season,” Saltzman explained, “Just keep lifting and whatever happens in college just let that carry to college.”

But like any great leader, Saltzman raved about the potential of Athens’ future football teams. Saltzman made it a point to bond with his linemen this season, taking them to dinner, spending time with them and building up their confidence so they can continue for future seasons. Saltzman thinks it will make the Bulldogs stronger, faster and smarter next year. He sees Athens as a top contender in the TVC-Ohio for future seasons.

“Each year we pick captains and we always wait until after the second scrimmage. At that time we put it into the hands of the team and the voting is based on who has the most votes throughout the different rounds,” Adams added,  “He was a clear nominee from his teammates standpoint and we as a coaching staff agreed. He’s always had a presence since his time here always putting himself in front of his team.”

However, all great leaders must move on. Saltzman, a senior, will graduate this spring but knows he will always have a place to go to with a strong support system.

“Our coaching staff is so close with us that it’s something you can’t really describe but we all had such a love for each other but its also at the same time not really over because everyone knows once they graduate they can always come back and they’ll have someone to come back to.”