By Ashley Scoby
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) — Zach Zenner Mania has been raging full-force for a while now. But it got even more intense after the undrafted rookie running back went for 85 yards and a touchdown on eight carries Friday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He’s quickly become a fan favorite, with his physical style and his humble background (South Dakota State University). But now, the first round of cuts is looming for this Lions team, and Zenner does have several talented guys at his position – Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, George Winn. All are competing for an undesignated number of spots under the “RB” label on the roster.
“I’ve given my best effort,” Zenner said. “That’s all I can ask.”
Although his teammates aren’t the ones making roster decisions, Zenner has made believers out of the players around him in the locker room.
“We got a steal on Zach,” Bell said. “That kid there, man … hard runner, hard-nosed, does everything right, comes to work every day ready to work, hard worker, he takes advice.”
Even with all the attention that Zenner has been getting recently, Bell still sees humility out of the rookie.
“He doesn’t get too much into the media and wanting to be the big guy,” Bell said. “He just wants the opportunity to come out here and play. That’s what I like about him.”
Fellow running back Abdullah actually played against Zenner in college. He’s known about the 5-11, 222-pound kid from Minnesota for longer than most of the other Lions.
“I played against him in college so it might be a shock to some people but I remember we played South Dakota State like in 2013, and his first run was like a 50-yard touchdown on us,” Abdullah said. “The whole game, I think he rushed for like 220 yards or something. At that point I knew what kind of player he was going to be.”
According to head coach Jim Caldwell, the first round of cuts to the roster will most likely happen in the next couple of days. With the running back column being extra crowded, there are no promises as to who makes it, no matter how flashy of a preseason he’s had.
“I think he’s done a number of things well, and he improves every single week,” Caldwell said about Zenner. “There was never any question in our eyes whether or not he was a physical runner, just whether or not he could function. That’s why we got him in pretty early, giving him a chance to work against the number one group and see what happens. He was able to perform pretty well.”
If all else fails, Zenner has most likely performed well enough to land a spot on another team with a need for running backs, should the Lions decide he doesn’t fit on their final 53-man roster.
“At the end, whatever happens, you know, may try to pick it up somewhere else, keep working,” Zenner said. “Either way, not taking any day for granted, trying to get better as a football player.”