Zajac bowls over opponents

Bakersfield native Elliott Zajac is finally in the spotlight. After three seasons in the shadows of NFL players Elliot Silvers and Chad Ward, Zajac is in the role that he's been preparing for quite some time, that of a Pac-10 starting offensive lineman.

"It's extremely enjoyable," said Zajac of his new starting role.

"It took a lot of time. It was time for me to step up, so that's what I am trying to do, trying to play good enough to be all Pac-10 and to play good enough for our team to have another trip to the Rose Bowl."

Offensive line Coach Brent Myers lauds his new starter at strong guard. "He's played really well. Four days before we played Michigan, he was nursing a hip flexor, he strained it pretty bad. He actually played pretty good based on he was playing hurt, he did a good job. He is like the rest of my guys, a ‘work in progress' which is okay, they are young and that's where they're at. The key for him is that he is continuing to improve, which is what I want. That is what I wanted out of the Idaho game, and I thought they improved quite a bit, now Michigan is obviously a much better football team, and its going to be a while until we face a defense that is as good as Michigan's. In the next couple of weeks the intensity level will change and we will see how he does -- but he has been improving."

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Bill Gillespie is keenly aware of the progress Zajac has made over his three-plus seasons as a Husky.

"With a 485-pound bench press, a 380-pound clean, and a 733-pound squat, Elliott is very strong. I can't think of anyone that has more flexibility on the line that him," said Gillespie.

"He realizes that this is his opportunity and he has great ability. He is starting to see it for himself now. This is his time."

On a young offensive line that is being forced to learn in a trial-by-fire environment, Zajac has the toughness and leadership required to help get Myers' group up the steep learning curve they are climbing this season.

He has beefed up from a 280-pound freshman to a 320-pound offensive guard, yet he has gotten quicker. "The (mark) I'm most happy with is my 40-time, which is 5 flat. That's pretty good speed for being 320," said Zajac.

His 40-time is the second fastest on the offensive line behind only Khalif Barnes' amazing 4.85.

So what's a typical day like for the interior lineman? "When we don't have school, it is all about football. I come in for treatment at about 8:00 a.m. for any nicks and bruises to get some therapy. Then I go to the weight room, I'm usually there for an hour or hour and a half. Then I go to lunch, and then have about an hour, hour and a half to rest, then we start our position meetings at about 2:15. By 3:30 you are on the field, by 6:30 you are off the field, then go to dinner, go home and repeat it all again the next day."

Being an offensive lineman may sound routine and is definitely not glamorous, but you never know when a golden opportunity will present itself.

"It's every lineman's dream to get into the endzone," said Myers.

It hasn't happened yet for Zajac, but Myers says he'll look into it once he's done removing the tongue from his cheek. "Maybe one of these days we will do some fumble-rooskie or something and see if he can," quipped Myers.

Look into it? Zajac apparently has an elaborate scheme of his own.

"My vision would definitely be running down field on a screen pass, I am blocking my guy, have the tailback go past me and have another guy catch up to him [tailback], make him fumble, then I pick up the ball and finish it and run it into the endzone," explains Zajac.

Once into the endzone, what would Zajac's celebration dance be like?

Try nonexistent.

"I definitely do not have a celebration dance. I think I would be so tired that I would just lie there. I will be laying there, just exhausted, but extremely happy."

Coach Myers finds that amusing. "That's a lineman for ya. They don't want to run any further than about 10 yards. Their world is in that 6-yard box. We have this saying that if you are running further than 40 yards, it means two things -- either we are scoring a touchdown and you are going to celebrate; or it's a bad thing and the ball is going the other way and you are chasing somebody and you ain't catching them anyhow because you aren't fast enough."

Myers also confirms what some Husky fans have suspected about Zajac. "He's got a little nastiness to him. He and Kyle Benn got a lot of nastiness to them, and I would like that to rub off on the other guys and it has in certain cases. He's pretty tough, not afraid of contact, a competitor, and that's what you want out of your guys."

So what does this Husky offensive lineman do for fun? "I play football, that takes up most of my time. We do a lot of bowling. Actually our team goes bowling quite a bit," said Zajac.


"We got a lot of guys that are bowlers, a lot of guys are fishermen. They like to fish. We don't always get our fishing licenses though and that gets you in trouble sometimes when you get caught without a fishing license."

Stick to bowling, Elliott.

"We go bowling down at Kenmore lanes. Some guys like it, some guys don't."

Of the bowling aficionados, who is the Top Dawg? "I would have to say that I am. My high score is 286. I don't bowl that well each week, my average is about 170, but now it's probably dropped to about 150. In California, I bowled like every day, but here I don't," said Zajac.

Zajac's former posse of bowlers included former Husky DE Mac Tuiaea, TE Anthony Mizin, and QB Ryan Miletich. Last year, he tried to drag Chad Ward and Matt Rogers down to the bowling alley.

"That was pretty interesting," deadpanned Zajac.

"I haven't really gone bowling lately, so we really don't have an official group yet, I'm trying to gather one."

Myers, now aware of Zajac's bowling interest, may be able to help.

"I had no idea that he was an avid bowler. That's good, I'm glad to hear that. My little daughter went bowling with the whole team last year before we went to the Rose Bowl, it was one of our outings we did before we left. She's four now and I've never told her it's called "bowling" -- she calls it "rolling balls."

"I will let my daughter take Elliott ‘rolling balls,'" laughed Myers.

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