The 2020 NFL draft is loaded with talented play-makers, but some of the more intriguing prospects available are already being doubted because of their lack of ideal size.
You can count Temple’s Zack Mesday among that group, but do so at your own peril.
Mesday has traveled a winding road to the draft, from a light recruitment process to finally being welcomed as a preferred walk-on at Temple, to three knee surgeries throughout his football career. All along the way, thanks to his unshakable confidence and tireless work ethic, he’s proven the doubters wrong.
Mesday recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his unique experiences, why he remains resilient, and what he’ll bring to an NFL team at the next level.
JM: You’ve taken such an unprecedented journey. You were a preferred walk-on at Temple that eventually earned a scholarship, but your story didn’t start there. You’ve just completed your sixth year at Temple and you needed a waiver from the NCAA to do so. How do you look back on the journey?
ZM: It was definitely a long journey (laughs). I grew a lot from it though. It’s definitely something that I look back on with gratefulness. I’m very thankful for the opportunity I was given there. They allowed me to walk-on after I tore my ACL. They knew that I really couldn’t help the team at that point. Most colleges wouldn’t have a roster spot for that guy. They just believed in me. They saw something in me and they gave me an opportunity. It really worked out.
JM: You literally emailed every single college coach at the D-I level looking for an opportunity. Literally every single one of them. Your goal was 50 schools a day, Where does one even capture that sort of drive?
ZM: During my senior year of high school, I could have graduated after my first semester but I wanted to stay with my friends for the second semester. I had three study halls and a lot of free time during that second semester. I had all three of them back-to-back-to-back. I would just grab my library pass, hop on the computer and email every school because I knew that I had a lot of interest from D-I schools. I knew that if I could get my name out there a little more, the more that people saw my name popping up in their emails, the better my chances. Out of 130-something D-I schools, I probably heard back from like 40 of them. That’s a lot of schools but it always ended the same. They would say they were gonna watch my film but they never got back to me. I knew that if I kept harassing them, someone would eventually give me a shot. That’s what happened with Temple.
Zack Mesday “is a guy who is really relentless in everything that he does” @mezzzy10 is on scholarship @Temple_FB with NCAA waiver for 6th season: “Growing up, it was always my dream to play Division I football,’’ Mesday said.https://t.co/V6zxPXF395 pic.twitter.com/LhAj0sUIHH— Mike Bowman (@mobozzen) November 26, 2019
JM: How and when did you hear from Temple?
ZM: I did a post-grad year after high school. I played defensive end in high school and I was All-State. I lead the state in sacks. Everybody said I was too small to come play defensive end for them. The University of Miami said they would have given me a full ride if I was three inches taller. They recommended that I go play a post-grad year and switch to linebacker. I went and played linebacker at Canterbury up in Connecticut. I received a few D-II and I-AA offers but nothing with a full scholarship. I actually got together with one of my former high school advisers and they put me in contact with Temple. They called me back within five minutes with a preferred walk-on offer. I visited the school the next day and never looked back.
JM: Wow, that’s amazing. The adversity was still coming your way unfortunately. Three knee surgeries. Where was your mindset at throughout those injuries?
ZM: I knew that I had an opportunity that a lot of people didn’t have. Less than 1% of high school football players get to play D-I football. I was paying for my stay there so I knew I had to give it everything I had. I knew that I would come out of it all with something. I would get my degree and I wouldn’t quit on football. I knew I had to work for everything. I would help the team however I could. I got my head in the books and got my CPA up. I worked every day and got my knee right. I just tried to make sure that I gave myself every opportunity possible to get back on the field.
Sixth-year DE Zack Mesday said he gained 12 pounds this offseason and shaved 2-percent of his body fat.— Michael Zingrone (@mjzingrone) August 1, 2019
JM: Are you participating in Temple’s Pro Day?
ZM: Yeah, I am. I’ll be at our Pro Day on March 16th.
JM: That’s incredible. You don’t strike me as the kind of guy that’s okay with the dream ending here. What’s next? How do you make the NFL dream come true?
ZM: It’s the same process I’ve gone through my entire career. I’m gonna continue to bet on myself. I’ve been overlooked my entire career. It’s nothing new to me. I didn’t even start on my varsity high school team until halfway through my junior year. It’s always been about keeping my head down and going to work. I had to make it all happen for myself. I didn’t get on the field at Temple until my fifth season. With the NFL, if I ever end up on a practice squad or playing in another league somewhere, as long as I get my opportunity somewhere, I’ll prove to somebody that I can play. It’ll eventually happen for me.