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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Calzada: comeback kid

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Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Ryne Ryskoski discusses how redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada earned the admiration of the 12th Man following the upset over Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 9. 

One week ago, sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada was lambasted and chastised by fellow students, national media, local media and old and young fans alike.
Back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State knocked Texas A&M from the AP Poll for the first time in two years. Calzada wasn’t meeting the A&M faithful’s expectations, leaving fans wondering if the season was already over before three SEC games had even been played.
The hardships were building up for him.
But none of that outside noise penetrated Jimbo Fisher’s locker room, who said more than once in the last few weeks, it’s no secret that athletes in today’s world must pay no heed to outside distractions.
“Guys, there isn’t any secret to this. There ain’t no magical formula,” Fisher said. “You write your own history. You believe in your own self.”
A week of intense mental preparation away from the constant scrutiny resulted in the performance of a lifetime; Calzada became the newest legend in Aggieland and has earned his place in A&M lore.
While watching my fellow Aggies pour onto Kyle Field after senior place-kicker Seth Small’s game-winning field goal, I thought back to after the Mississippi State loss when Calzada was seen crying on his way back to the locker room.
I played college baseball before transferring to A&M and have played sports at an ultra-competitive level for nearly my whole life. I cried over little things that barely mattered, but also big things like losing and disappointing a community. That’s an all-time low feeling as an athlete, knowing that you’re the reason for the disappointment of thousands.
What it says about Calzada, though, is not that he’s mentally weak and insecure, but has unmatched care and devotion for his team and university. The 12th Man, Aggieland, the fans, the environment — it all matters to Calzada, Fisher said.
“There’s going to be trials and tribulations, and you’re defined by how you respond to adversity,” Fisher said. “[Calzada] is a high-character young man. It matters to him, it means something to him.”
Going 10 for 10 through the air to start a game, as Calzada did against Alabama, is certainly a strong way to respond. He’d go on to throw for 256 yards and three touchdowns before the final offensive possession of the night. That was when things came full circle, as they usually do in sports.
During the game-tying, 25-yard touchdown throw to junior wide receiver Ainias Smith, Calzada’s left leg rolled, and he was down in pain before being helped off by two of A&M’s trainers. It looked like he was done for the night.
With the game tied at 38 and A&M getting the ball back after Alabama punted, Calzada returned to the tune of a chorus of “CAL-ZA-DA! CAL-ZA-DA! CAL-ZA-DA!” I must admit, that moment was powerful, unlike any other.
The same people who couldn’t stop calling him names, clowning him and wanting him benched, now proved to Calzada they were behind him. It was truly awe-inspiring seeing the 12th Man come to its senses at the exact moment when its signal-caller needed it the most.
Armed with adrenaline and Kyle Field’s endearment, Calzada led a calculated, steady drive into field goal range by going 2 for 2 for 29 yards and rushing for 11 yards. Each of those three plays picked up first downs to let Small finish the job.
This season has had its delights and its disappointments, all of which will inevitably continue over the six remaining regular-season games. But College Station will now remember Oct. 9, 2021, as the day Zach Calzada took down Nick Saban and Alabama, regardless of whatever happens in his remaining time wearing the maroon and white.
He should be remembered, not for his stats and touchdown throws on that day, but for his heart, mental fortitude and courageousness that inspired 106,000+ people in a way nothing else could.
That is his triumph.

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