Story courtesy of Annabel Stephan
It’s pretty rare when a 6-foot-6, 300-pound athlete who plays for a big-time high school program makes it to his junior season in Texas without generating plenty of buzz along the way.
Meet Stephan Zabie, the best junior offensive line prospect you haven’t heard of - yet.
Zabié’s story brings him to the Lone Star State from Philadelphia via Maryland. His football career is relatively new, as he took to the field for the first time ever during his freshman season at Maryland Eastern Christian in Elkton, Maryland, a prep school known for putting out big time talent.
“They had some big time recruits, like Freddy Canteen, who is at Michigan, David Sills, who plays quarterback at West Virginia now, and Kenny Bigelow and Khaliel Rodgers, who are both at USC. There was a lot of talent there,” he said.
Zabié began to garner attention from a few colleges after that season and showed promise playing defensive tackle for the Honey Badgers, but he ended up making the move to Texas to be closer to family before his sophomore year.
Looking for a high school that offered both strong academics and strong football, Zabié enrolled at Austin Westlake High School, but had to watch the Chaparrals from the stands during his sophomore season.
“I’ve been here for a year, but I sat out last year and couldn’t play because of transfer rules with UIL, so this is my really my first year of playing in Texas,” he said. “People always say ‘everything is bigger in Texas.’ That’s how I feel about Texas football; everything is more passionate, there’s a lot of competition, and it’s just a great state to play football in. It’s a challenge, especially if you’re from the North. The weather is really hot but you still go to practice. You hear that ‘the country boys are big and strong,’ and it’s true. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Zabié first donned the red, white, and blue earlier this spring, finally able to get on the field with his new team. This time, however, he was playing on the other side of the ball.
“My freshman year was my first ever time to play football. Defensive line was about being aggressive, getting to the quarterback. When I came to Westlake and made the transition to offensive line, I learned that it was about technique. It’s a very technical position. I was always an athletic kid and had good footwork, but my technique and my football IQ have both grown since working with our staff. I trained all year with a personal trainer and I’ve been working with my offensive line coach, [former Houston Texans and Texas offensive lineman] Kasey Studdard. The hard work got me to the point I wanted to be at by the start of the season, but now I just want to keep improving every week,” he said.
Zabié’s first game with the Chaps was versus powerhouse Southlake Carroll, and the hype before the game and large crowd in attendance did not go unnoticed.
“There were some nerves going on at first, but after I got the pancake, I reminded myself how hard I had been training and just played. I still am not satisfied; I’m a very competitive kid, and I want to be the best. I made some mental mistakes, but those are the things I’m going to keep learning throughout the year. I’m going to just try to improve every week. That’s my goal,” he said.
To those in attendance at the game, Zabié immediately passed the eyeball test. At 6-foot-6, 300-pounds, he looks like a prototypical offensive tackle. He moves extremely well for his size. He’s the type of prospect you would imagine college offensive line coaches go crazy for — he has the size, athleticism, and the physical traits for a college offensive lineman, but he’s still raw. He’s also hungry to make an impact on the field. In conversation, he comes across intelligent and well-versed, and it’s clear that he’s set high standards for himself that he’s working tirelessly to achieve.
Because Zabié sat out last season, his recruitment has waned. Without sophomore film, and with only two games of film playing on the offensive line, he’s patiently waiting for things to pick up once again. Texas had shown interest in the athlete when he was playing Maryland, and Zabié attended the Longhorns’ Under the Lights Camp over the summer.
“I think I did pretty well at the camp and I got to speak with Coach [Charlie] Strong and [offensive line] Coach [Joe] Wickline, which was fun. I’m just trying to get that offer from there,” he said.
Zabié mentions that he’s also really interested in Georgia, USC, and UCLA, calling those four programs “the ones off the top of my head that I really like.” However, he’s open to hearing from any schools and says that he knows that there are plenty of other schools that could have his interest.
Ideally, Zabié says he’ll stay at offensive tackle once he makes it to the collegiate level.
“I think I have the ability to play offensive tackle and I have a few more years to develop; I think I have a big upside because I’m raw and this is my first year at the position. I don’t look 300-pounds, but I am 300-pounds . That’s what I weighed in at the Texas camp, and I weigh myself pretty much every day. I believe I have enough athleticism and intelligence to play that position,” he said.
Westlake currently sits undefeated and with a four-star 2017 quarterback committed to Texas in Sam Ehlinger, it’s likely many a college coach will stop by this season.
Stephan Zabié may still be an under the radar prospect — but expect that to change, and soon.