Sunshine senior Zinnerman focused on present

Published 9:38 pm Monday, October 13, 2008

His head coach has called him the heart and soul of the team. As cliché as the phrase may sound, it remains applicable to a player who has proven anything but cliché during his tenure as a Sunshine Tiger.

“He knows how good he is, but he’s never talking about it,” Sunshine head coach Jonathan Jenkins said of senior Nathaniel Zinnerman. “Nate’s been that way all along.”

Zinnerman’s athletic ability has shown through on the field this year not only from his linebacker and tight end positions, but also on the special teams unit. Friday night against Linden, he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

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“Nate comes out here and gives all he’s got,” Jenkins said of a player he believes is destined to spend the next few years of his life as a collegiate athlete. “Because he wants to leave a legacy, not because he wants to go to the next level.”

Still, Jenkins reminds, college prospects are not entirely out of Zinnerman’s thoughts.

“He knows he’s going to get some offer at the next level,” Jenkins said.

“I’m going to the next level,” Zinnerman assured confidently when asked about his post-graduation plans.

The high-motor senior said his collegiate choices include Auburn, Mississippi State and Troy. But for now, his focus is squarely upon Akron, A.L. Johnson and Greensboro. Those are the final three teams Zinnerman will face in a high school career his head coach says he is not quite ready to see end.

“He’s a little different than the rest of my seniors,” Jenkins explained. “While most of them are counting the day until May, Nate’s cherishing the days to May.”

“He’s one that I rarely take out unless he asks for it,” Jenkins said. “He plays everyday like it’s fourth and goal.”

According to Jenkins, Zinnerman has always kept his focus on the Sunshine Tigers.

“He’s always wanted to be a Sunshine Tiger,” Jenkins said. “I think because he bleeds green and gold and he doesn’t brag on himself, it makes him a leader on this ball club.”

“It means a lot to me (that) I’m doing things right for people to look up to me,” Zinnerman said.

During his team’s difficult 2008 campaign, a season in which it has posted a 1-6 record to date, Zinnerman has used that leadership role wisely.

“I tell (my teammates) ‘You can’t be the weak link in the chain,’” Zinnerman said of the continuous encouragement he lends his fellow Tigers.

As for that legacy Zinnerman has been so focused on, the goal is simple. He said there is only one thing he wants teammates, coaches, faculty and fans to say about the way he spent his career at Sunshine.

“Nate did what he had to do,” he said of what he hopes peers and spectators will soon say about the player who proudly wore No. 44 and scarcely left the field.