To say that the starting tight end on Penn's football team has stepped into the limelight in a big way this season might be a bit of an understatement. You see, when you say "big," you just don't get the whole picture when it comes to 6'7" senior Ben Zagorski. Used primarily on passing downs over the past three years, Zagorski is taking on a larger role this fall as the full-time tight end. And though only one game has passed by in the 2000 campaign, with five receptions for 74 yards and the Quakers' only touchdown, this senior appears ripe and ready for his new role. "It's the nature of this offense. We can't put in a tight end just to throw him the ball, or we can't throw in a tight end just to block. To be a tight end in this offense, you need to be versatile," Quakers tight ends coach Mike Santella said. "And I think that versatility is a big-time asset for Ben because of his physical nature. "He's a good run-blocker, and obviously since he's 6'7", he's a tremendous target for the quarterback to hit." Using the combination of size and soft hands, Zagorski broke through as Penn's fourth-leading receiver last fall. The then-junior pulled down 26 passes, good for 243 yards and three touchdowns. At Lehigh four days ago, Zagorski showed no signs of slipping into a senior slump, playing nearly every down and notching three scores -- though two were brought back by penalties. "This year I'm stepping up a bit, playing a lot more snaps, both blocking and passing," Zagorski said. "We can't get down the field if I don't block." But Zagorski, ever the gentle giant, is quick to credit the small people who have helped him get to the position he is at -- namely wide receivers such as 5'10" Rob Milanese and 6'0" Doug O'Neill. "Their quickness on the outside gives me a huge advantage, spreading the field out, and that's where we can take opportunities against certain people I have a size advantage against," Zagorski said. "And then I can help to give [Penn quarterback] Gavin [Hoffman] a bigger target." A play that worked against Lehigh, and which Penn opponents have probably not seen the last of, is sort of like a jump ball in basketball. Early in the fourth-quarter, Zagorski posted-up 5'11" Engineers safety Abdul Byron in the end zone, and then outjumped him to haul in a three-yard strike that was the Quakers' only touchdown. "It's definitely easier and people see it more [when it's a corner route with a ball thrown up for grabs], but every route is important," Zagorski said. "I'm just trying to catch the ball and move the ball downfield for the team." But jump balls should be nothing new for the 6'7" senior, who was a center-power forward on his high school basketball team and, yes, took the jump balls. Some possible roots of Zagorski's athleticism on the field may come as no surprise. A native of South Bend, Ind., the 21-year-old confessed that, "Obviously, when my mom was pregnant, she used to go to Notre Dame games, and I've always been an Irish fan." But physical prowess and ability are not necessarily the most impressive of Zagorski's features. "He's never complacent. He's like a sponge -- he asks me, OWhat can I do? What can I do?'" said Santella, who has previously worked with tight ends at Lehigh and East Stroudsburg. "He has a tremendous work ethic, and he's got a lot of natural tools. He's a very coachable guy. You watch the film and you make an adjustment, and he definitely works on it." As Zagorski prepares for his final campaign in a Quakers uniform, there are a number of things he has been working on. The transition to blocking downs is a big focus of his attentions, though the transition to a senior and a team leader is a more subtle one. "The biggest change is that I'm a senior and I know I've got one year left, so I have to play every game like it's my last," Zagorski said. "It doesn't really seem that different to me with younger teammates looking up to me." With a Management concentration in Wharton, Penn's tight end has been so focused on managing the gridiron that -- like many other seniors -- post-graduate affairs have not risen to the top of his mind just yet. "I need to get on that," Zagorski said, chuckling about plans come May. "I'm in entrepreneurial management, so maybe start my own business. And I'll need a good idea, which is always tough." Through one-tenth of the 2000 season, though, Zagorski has had one and only one idea, which may be equally as daunting. Counting the 1998 Ivy title among his favorite memories, the senior is determined to bring home another. "The championship year was amazing. That team had something special. And that's something that we're trying to get back this year, and hopefully we can," the senior said. "That whole year, it was so exciting. It's just something I yearn to get back."
News and Notes With his five catches for 77 yards on Saturday, senior Doug O'Neill became the ninth Quakers wideout to amass over 1,000 receiving yards in his career.Comments powered by Disqus
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