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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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‘Made of steel’

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Quarterback Zach Calzada attempting a pass down the field.

With the score still knotted at three against one of the best teams in the nation, Kyle Field was electric. Fans, from the sideline to the third deck, yelled as loud as they could; the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band blasted anthems of energy through the stadium; the hairs on the necks of those in attendance stood at attention.
But one play changed everything.
In a heartbeat, Kyle Field went silent. Aggies stepped “off the wood,” and a blanketing wave of paralysis overtook the student section. Nobody moved in fear of worsening the situation.
Finally, one young man broke through the quiet, shouting at the top of his lungs. Moments later, thousands of others joined in, and in no time, all of Kyle Field was chanting the starting quarterback’s name as he was helped off the field.
After two false starts and a holding penalty moved the Aggies back into a second-and-23 situation, redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada was feeling the pressure. A run-pass option went south when Calzada called an audible and held onto the ball, forcing the quarterback to scramble for 10 yards before attempting to steamroll Auburn senior safety Smoke Monday.
The carry did not play out as Calzada intended, and the young play-caller left the game with a dislocated shoulder.
Having seen Calzada’s speed on full display every day in practice, senior defensive lineman Tyree Johnson said he didn’t understand why the sequence on the field played out as it did.
“Zach’s a pretty fast guy,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I was thinking, ‘Why [didn’t he] just run past the guy?’”
Others on the team, such as freshman linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, chose not to dwell on the play. The priority was to focus on the then-current drive, as victory was still attainable for either team at that point, Cooper said.
“Some things just happen in a game. At that point, it’s the next person up,” Cooper said. “Whatever the circumstance is, we have to just finish through.”
And the Aggies were prepared to do exactly that. Freshman walk-on quarterback Blake Bost came into the game, ready to fight for Texas A&M’s fourth-consecutive Southeastern Conference victory.
Bost didn’t get long to shine, however, as he returned to the sideline without attempting a single pass. In a matter of two plays, Calzada — with the help of the athletic training staff — had popped his shoulder back into place and was ready to return to action.
After once again taking his place behind the center, Calzada helped the Aggies finish the drive and take the lead with a field goal by senior place-kicker Seth Small. Auburn never tied the game after that point, eventually letting the Aggies secure the 20-3 win.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher said key moments — such as overcoming a serious injury within minutes — is what sets Calzada apart from other quarterbacks in the SEC.
“Zach is a tough son of a gun,” Fisher said. “He got back in there, and I tell you, the team responds to that; they love that. That’s the way the leader of your team has got to be: The guy that’s taking those snaps.”
And this wasn’t the first time this season the maroon and white saw this scenario play out.
In A&M’s matchup against then-No. 1 Alabama earlier this season, Calzada was helped off the field with what looked like a season-ending injury to his leg, leading many fans to believe a Crimson Tide victory was all but guaranteed. But in true Calzada fashion, the quarterback didn’t stay down for long, as he was somehow ready to play again on the next drive. The Aggies went on to kick a field goal as time ran out, winning 41-38.
As the saying at A&M goes, “If something happens twice, it’s a tradition.” And Calzada seems set on establishing a tradition of his own: leaving a football game with a serious injury before returning and leading A&M on a game-winning drive to defeat a top-15 opponent.
To happen once is impressive. To happen twice is legendary.
“I’m convinced he has a skull made of steel,” The Crimson White sports editor Ashlee Woods told The Battalion via direct message on Twitter.
This reputation in turn earned Calzada the moniker of the “glow stick” of college football, as he seemingly shines brightest after first being broken.
Still proud of the signal-caller, junior Kenyon Green said protecting quarterbacks like Calzada is the reason it is satisfying to fill the position of offensive lineman on a collegiate football squad.
“You see him when he’s out there. He’s into the game,” Green said. “Him doing that — him being focused and into the game like he is — brings me great joy.”
Calzada’s actions have not gone unnoticed, and he has now set a standard for other offensive players on the team to follow on a daily basis, junior wide receiver Ainias Smith said.
“That’s just the type of guy he is. He’s never going to back down,” Smith said. “There’s no room for error in the SEC. Anything can happen. You always have to bring your A-game, and … I’m expecting to score every drive.”
Calzada was recruited by Fisher in high school, allowing the coach to evaluate the Under Armour All-American player on a long- term timeline. During his time at Lanier High School in Sugar Hill, Ga., the quarterback scored 40 total touchdowns while passing for 3,429 yards, so Fisher said he knew Calzada had “great arm talent.”
What Fisher said he couldn’t predict was Calzada’s mental fortitude and grit.
“He was very competitive. He was banged up his senior year, and he took a team that didn’t have a lot of great players to a state semi-final on his back,” Fisher said. “I saw a competitor, but you don’t really realize a guy’s toughness until you get a hold of him and coach him yourself.”
Now A&M is on track to finish the season with what may become a seven-game win streak and wins over three ranked opponents, all earned with Calzada at the helm.
Regardless of these wins or losses, Fisher said something even more important has begun to develop inside Calzada: leadership. How the quarterback’s college career — which still has two full years of NCAA eligibility — progresses will be determined by his ability to take charge of any given situation while setting an example for other members of the maroon and white, Fisher said.
“That’s the thing about sports that people just don’t understand if they don’t ever play it: Being part of something bigger than you; being part of a support system; being a guy that takes the role nobody else wants,” Fisher said.

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