Zach Zulli: The progression of a football star
Zach Zulli started his career at Shippensburg University like many others. He redshirted his freshman year to get more familiar with the system.
Zulli entered the Raiders’ organization in 2009 as a graduate of Perkiomen Valley High School where he posted big numbers for the Vikings under head coach Scott Reed.
Zulli was named the MVP of the PAC-10 in his junior year and was also named an Old Spice Red Zone Player of the Year in 2007.
“I learned to be a better man in the classroom and learned a lot about football from my coaches when I was in high school,” Zulli said.
Zulli brought what his coaches taught him to the Raider football squad and has excelled ever since.
The Perkiomen Valley grad had a different type of role in the Raider organization in his first year. Zulli was a punt returner for the Raiders in 2010.
Zulli notched 11 punt returns for 91 yards, his longest being 42 yards.
Zulli is a dual threat with the ball in his hands because he can run and pass well on nearly any defense.
Zulli then stepped into the role as the Raider quarterback in 2011 and performed above everyone’s expectations.
The red shirt sophomore set several single season records including 226 completions and 34 passing touchdowns during his first year as a starter.
Not only was Zulli a threat in the air he was a threat on the ground as well, tallying 364 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Zulli had his best game on the ground against East Stroudsburg University when he ran for 126 yards and one touchdown.
Zulli’s progression continued when he entered his redshirt junior season. Zulli led the Raiders to a PSAC East title while breaking 25 school records along with four national records.
The most eye-popping record being his 54 passing touchdowns, which is tied for second most in Division II history.
The junior redshirt quarterback was named PSAC Eastern Division Offensive Player of the Week five times and NCAA.com’s Division II Offensive Player of the Week once.
Zulli captured the almighty Harlon Hill trophy in 2012, which is the equivalent to the Division I Heisman Trophy.
Despite all of the high accolades Zulli and the Raiders fell short of capturing the PSAC trophy and were ousted by Winston-Salem State University in the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
Coming into this year, Zulli had high expectations for himself.
“My expectations for myself were to do better than last year,” Zulli said. “I know that seems ridiculous but it is really not. I missed a lot of throws last year and we came up short in the playoffs.”
Zulli might not have outdone his previous year but he posted big numbers in his final season in a Raider uniform.
SU and Zulli got off to a rough start this year when they opened the year 0–2. Zulli struggled against Shepherd University where he completed just over 48 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions.
Zulli made a drastic turnaround in the next few games. Just three games after the agonizing loss to the Rams, Zulli took care of business when the team took on Millersville University. Zulli completed 28 of his 36 passing attempts for 353 yards and five touchdowns.
The signal caller had his best game of the 2013 season when he took on Bloomsburg in a game that was nationally televised on the CBS Sports Network.
“I really did not think about the TV part,” Zulli said. “I thought about the opponent and what I had to do against them on every single play.”
The senior quarterback did not let the limelight get to him.
During the rain-drenched game, Zulli outplayed the No. 5-nationally ranked Huskies, completing 31 of his 39 passes for 466 yards and five touchdowns.
“It was a great atmosphere and it was an amazing game to be a part of,” Zulli said.
The NFL hopeful takes a lot of time to prepare for every team that he faces throughout the year.
“My preparation for each game never changes and it involves a lot of film work. I spend about 15 hours a week watching the other team and about five hours watching our practices,” Zulli said.
“I mentally know every game is going to be a battle and I go out to every game saying I will not be stopped.”
Zulli takes every precaution to not be stopped and has been successful in the past two seasons. Zulli and the Raiders are 18–6 in the past two seasons.
All of the hard work, hours spent watching film, rough days on the field and the countless hours in the weight room could potentially land Zulli a spot on an NFL team in the coming years.
His countless awards and impressive statistics have gained some attention from NFL scouts.
“Football is my life and I hope I can play it for the rest of my life,” Zulli said.
The reigning Harlon Hill winner has taken every step in the right direction so far to try and further his career in football.
Only time will tell if Zulli will get the opportunity to play in the big leagues but until then he will continue to progress on and off the field.