University running back makes big adjustments
Physical and emotional maturity merged simultaneously for University senior running back Jory Zettle this fall.
And not a moment too soon, either.
Zettle didn’t learn he’d be academically eligible this season until early summer. He had done about as little as possible in the classroom through his junior year and his grade-point average was on life support.
“It was somewhere between a D and a C,” Zettle said.
Zettle declined to be specific, but admitted the GPA was closer to a D than a C.
About halfway through his junior year, Zettle was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. He was put on medication, and slowly he started to gain focus in the classroom.
“He’s made a lot of progress the last several months,” U-Hi coach Bill Diedrick said.
Still, Diedrick didn’t know where to put Zettle on the field – largely because his eligibility was iffy and he didn’t want to plan on a big role if he couldn’t play.
Diedrick holds a draft before summer camp in which offensive and defensive coaches select returning players. His hope was the Titans had enough talent to install a two-platoon system.
Selecting for the offense, Diedrick passed on selecting Zettle. The defensive coaches took him.
Zettle started the first two games at cornerback. But with Cameron Desonia, the projected starter at tailback, lost for the year with a broken thumb in preseason practice, Diedrick scrapped the two-platoon idea and decided to give Zettle a shot on offense.
“He’s a great kid, but he needed some guidance and direction,” Diedrick said. “I knew he had the ability coming in. That was the one thing about seeing the potential but not ever watching him develop it.”
Zettle far exceeded Diedrick’s expectations. He rushed for 1,458 yards in seven games. It was good enough to land him eighth all time on the Greater Spokane League’s single-season rushing list.
“He had to learn to be patient and hit the hole,” Diedrick said. “He was a scattered runner before. Now he’s being a lot more patient. That’s giving him an opportunity to make his moves on the secondary (part of the) defense. That is where he’s grown being a running back.”
Zettle has also grown in the classroom. Through the first grading period, he had a B average in his six classes.
“It was a great challenge to him and he met that challenge,” Diedrick said.
Zettle said it wasn’t easy waiting for an opportunity to prove himself both on and off the field.
“I did struggle with it at first,” Zettle said. “I was like, ‘Damn, what’s going on?’ I just decided that I was going to play this out and see where it goes. Then Cam got hurt and I’m starting at running back. I just felt like it was meant to be. I decided I was going to be a good team player and roll with the punches and have a good attitude. If I was going to start at cornerback, I decided I was going to be the best cornerback I could be.”
Zettle shares the credit with his sizeable offensive line – Joe Dahl, Jake Laden, Tegan Orndorff, Colby Faulkes and Connor Cook.
“They work hard every day in practice,” Zettle said.
Zettle knows he’s limited his initial college opportunities because of his academic issues. But he plans to search far and wide for a chance.
“Before it was about me. Why am I not doing this and why am I not getting these things?” Zettle said. “It was my fault, my own ignorance. Now that I’ve become more mature, I understand it’s a team sport and I’ve stopped focusing on myself so much.”