The life and times of a walkon - Zack Brent

Zack Brent was a preferred walkon at Ole Miss. He's made the most of his opportunity as a first-year collegiate student-athlete.

Brent, a 6-foot-1, 245-pounder from Lafayette County High School in Oxford, spent a lot of time in and around Ole Miss football growing up. Nowadays he spends a lot of time on the inside of Ole Miss football. It's been a dream come true for Brent, who has played center this fall but was actually at fullback this past week.

As special as being a part of the program had been for him at the halfway point of this season, not even Brent could have predicted what was coming prior to the homecoming game against Louisiana Tech. He was named one of the Rebel captains, a thrill that brings a smile to his face.

"It was actually pretty funny the way I found out, because Coach O had told me that he appreciated me working hard and he wanted me to keep on working hard," Brent said. "But I didn't even connect the possibility of being a captain. Then in the team meeting on Friday (Oct. 5) he announced it. That was when I first found out."

Brent said it's really no big secret or magic formula that have been the reasons he dressed out for every home game in 2007. It's all quite simple, actually.

"It was just working hard, just making known that I am here to work and that it is a privilege to be on the football team," said Brent with a sincerity in his voice and a seriousness on his face. "It's just about attitude and I have the attitude of working hard and appreciating the opportunity that I have."

He also takes being on the scout team, now called the service team, as seriously as he would if he were on the first or second teams.

"It's a new term they put in because scout team might sound like it's not as important," said the Pharmacy major. "But if you think about it, we are doing a service and helping the team. We're there for a purpose and they really want us to realize that we are a big part of how the team is going to play. So you need to go in with the attitude of I'm going to give it everything I have because we are the people who prepare the team for the game. They're going to be as good as we make them."

Brent said he's enjoyed being on the service team with players who will have an impact in the future.

"Like Jevon (Snead) at quarterback. He is such an amazing quarterback to work with us because he can make the good passes and he can run the offense however he needs to. It's just amazing to be on the service team with all of them, just being able to work hard and having the coaches recognize people for working hard on the service team."

The service team does basically all the same things the regular team players do. They watch film of the other team, because they are that other team, running the offense and defense of the Rebels' opposition for the upcoming game.

"We prepare so much so that when we try to go out there and run regular plays it will help prepare the team," he said. "It is a different world for us because all we do is run other teams' plays. I watch and see what their center does because that is what I play. That will make me better because I am able to see what his technique is on all kinds of things and that should help me in the future."

Zack, the son of UM Assistant Athletics Diretor for Information Technology Joey Brent and his wife Beverly, admits that at first he felt he might have been invited and honored as a captain because of that particular situation. Turns out that's not the case at all.

"I really thought Coach O was giving me recognition because of my dad being here and all. But the coaches have made it clear several times that that has nothing to do with it. Coach O said on his radio show (earlier this season) that he doesn't care if my dad works here or not, that I'd earned every bit of being a captain."

Certainly those type comments and being named a game captain help keep a walkon motivated and working. Brent says he's treated exactly like the rest of his walkon and service team teammates, and that the service team is indeed a part of the team.

"I am completely a walkon, but we are not treated any differently than scholarship players. They expect everything from me that they expect from the other guys, and it's not like they expect more or they expect less. They just expect everything from us like they would any football player. The thing is I have been working hard, and it is because I love football so much. So I am going to give it everything I can, because if you are at school and have the chance to play football, why not give it your best and everything you've got?"

Brent said he's learned a lot from his teammates, including the ones on the first and second teams.

"I'm around them a lot, and I've learned a lot," he said. "Thomas Eckers and Corey Actis and all of them have helped me out so much. Both are great guys and both are willing to help in anything I need. Whatever it is, they're there. They both know the offense so well. The center has to know the whole offense because we make known who the Mike linebacker is, and we have to know everything that is going on. They are both on top of their game, so if I ever have a question about what to do on this play or that play, without even seeing it they can shout off what it is."

Brent, snapping the ball all fall to Snead, says the Texas transfer should be a star at Ole Miss.

"Jevon has amazing skills. He can thread passes in between defenders, and he has really shown that he is here to work too. He's not just going to come out here and be another quarterback. He came here to play. He has made the coaches happy because he has really progressed on service team. He has good days and bad days just like every other player. But he is really coming along."

A member of the Honors College, Brent has to strike a balance between football and school work, just like all student-athletes do.

"It's amazing because Honors College and Pharmacy School work well together. Me being in football, it takes a little more time to be in the Honors College and in football. But it definitely pays off to do both."

Zack's sister, Holly, is a senior at Ole Miss. It's been a special Thanksgiving for the Brents since all of them are in Oxford. Zack said that's especially true for his mother, and this fall has been a real treat for her.

"My mom is in love with Ole Miss football," he said. "This has been a lot of fun for her. And I love it, too, of course. I just remember back to like the Florida game when everybody was just so into it and chanting Hotty Toddy in unison. You finally heard the whole stadium up and crazy for us, and that's when I finally realized that this was pretty huge. Just being out there was so big. But I am here for school, and when I got the chance to be a preferred walk on, I was excited. It's turned into a dream come true, and it's been a great experience."

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