For Gophers fans, Zack Annexstad’s injury last fall felt like an opposing interception in the last seconds of the fourth quarter. Not only was it unexpected, but it seemed to cast serious doubt on whether the freshman quarterback would live up to expectations.
That was then; this is now. Zack has shown the same girt and fortitude that made him the first true freshman walk-on quarterback since Baker Mayfield back in 2013. If this is the kind of spirit we can expect to see going forward, then Gophers fans are in for one heck of a season.
Standing Tall Among a Family of Giants
Zack is a Minnesota native who hails from Norseland, a small town near St. Peter. His father Scott played for the Gophers in the ‘80s, going on to an NFL career with both Washington and Kansas City. His brother Brock is a Gophers wide receiver, and his cousin Sam Dekker plays in the NBA.
Pain is part of the price any athlete pays to excel. Zack learned this lesson back in 2015 when as the starting quarterback for Mankato West. An ankle injury sidelined him but didn’t quench his drive to succeed. He settled back from the injury and later gained admission to IMG Academy, an ultra-competitive academy in Bradenton, Florida, that focuses on athletics.
In his senior year at IMG, Zack led his team through an undefeated season, completing 63 out of 112 passes and gaining 940 yards with 10 touchdowns. His talent, along with his cool-headed focus, made him a leader both on the field and off. He persuaded classmates Curtis Dunlap Jr. and Daniel Faalele to make the move with him to Minnesota. Now, all three play for the Gophers, with Dunlap as a four-star offensive guard, and Faalale as a three-star offensive tackle.
A Setback, Not a Defeat
The Gophers played Nebraska October 20th of last year when Zack sustained an injury to his midsection near the end of the first half.
Coach Fleck knew that something was wrong when he saw that Zack had trouble breathing after the incident. The trainers sent Zack to the hospital where they evaluated and released him in time to fly home with his teammates after the game.
Worries about Zack’s health came as a hard blow to Gophers fans, whose outlook can sometimes be as gloomy as a February day in Duluth. But Zack proved his mettle by coming back after sitting out two games, serving as a reserve to backup quarterback Tanner Morgan during the now-legendary November matchup against Purdue.
Since then, Zack has gone back to the basics. Fleck urges him to focus on the fundamentals of quarterbacking: stay cool, think fast and keep an eye open for opportunities. Zack has shown that he can learn from his errors and up his game, an essential trait for success in any arena.
What Our Crystal Ball Tells Us
FOX Bet and other bookmakers keep an eye on Zack, trying to guess whether last year’s injury will come back to haunt him in the new season. However, all signs indicate that their worries are overblown. The young man from Norseland still has plenty of Nordic determination, along with a single-minded focus on the task at hand. Maybe that’s why Fleck chose him. The coach has shown an uncanny ability to mold raw talent into seasoned players.
Speaking of Fleck, he recently announced four new commitments for the fall lineup, including Melle Kreuder, a defensive end that comes to the Gophers State all the way from Germany. With fresh muscle backing up veteran skill, this Gopher’s future looks promising indeed. With any luck, the 2019 season will be one that Minnesota fans remember with fondness for a long time to come.
Tag(s): Gopher Football