Zachery Hoping Patience Pays Off


by - Correspondent -
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Zachery enters the 2001season as Clemson's career leader in touchdowns (39).

CLEMSON - By the time a college football player's senior season rolls around,
twice-daily workouts during preseason are as dreaded as they are necessary.


Often you'll find a veteran player, knowing his spot in the starting lineup
is secure, finding ways to miss a half-day here or part of a practice there.
Viewed as a rite of passage among the players, tolerated (to an extent) by
head coaches, skipping the occasional workout is as much a part of camp as
the dreaded grass drill.


Of course, every now and again one stumbles across a player like Travis
Zachery.


A senior with no legitimate challenge to his starting position, Zachery
nonetheless was on the field every minute of every practice this preseason
until he suffered a slightly sprained ankle toward the end of a workout last
week. What might have kept some players out of practice for three or four
days sidelined Zachery for one, and then he was right back at it with the
first team.


Such has been the case since early in the 1999 season. After sitting out the
season-opening loss to Marshall due to disciplinary reasons, Zachery quickly
reclaimed the starting tailback position he won as a freshman.


Two years and the team touchdown-scoring record later, Zachery remains the
starting tailback. Barring injury, he appears intent on maintaining that
elite status.


No pats on the back for previous accomplishments. No bold predictions for the
future.


"I take it game by game, really," Zachery said. "And I challenge myself in
the off season. I work on my speed, I work different things to try and get
better."


Zachery appears to be fully recovered from the broken ankle he suffered in
the Gator Bowl against Virginia Tech back on Jan. 1. His all-around skills
have kept him far ahead of young challengers such as Bernard Rambert and
Keith Kelly. While both may be as effective running the ball, neither has
matched Zachery's abilities as a blocker or receiver.


Nor have they developed a nose for the end zone. Zachery enters the 2001
season as Clemson's career leader in touchdowns (39), and is coming off a
season in which he rushed for 1,027 yards, just 16 less than ACC leader
Antwoine Womack of Virginia.


He was named First-Team All-ACC by both the ACC Sportswriter Association and
The Sporting News, and is a preseason candidate for the Doak Walker Award,
the honor bestowed on the nation's best running back.


All this, despite not being blessed with a tailback's traditional breakaway
speed.


"God didn't bless me with great speed," he said. "But I've worked on it, and
only time will tell (if I get any faster). But the touchdowns are going to
help our team, and any time it's in sight, any distance, that's my goal.
Every time I touch the ball I want to score."


Yet despite the records and postseason honors, Zachery's not satisfied with
his performance, and neither is head coach Tommy Bowden. Both know there's
another level to be reached, and this is Zachery's last chance to get there.


"The only step I think he needs to take is take that 1,027 yards and make it
1,300 or 1,400," Bowden said. "I think that's the next step for him to
challenge for All-ACC and lead the conference in rushing...


"He's done really good. He's got a couple of records here, he's been very
dependable...Other than some early discipline problems when I first got here,
he's been a really solid citizen. He's been a really good leader here these
last six months."


Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger and the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 10 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9.

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