Moving Forward

As Fort Wayne native Zach Terrell enters the NFL, he adds husband to his list of accomplishments.
Heather Herron

High school standout, college star and NFL player. Now Zach Terrell can also be referred to as a newlywed. 

The Fort Wayne native married his college sweetheart on July 15. “She’s from Georgia. I found me a Southern Belle,” he says proudly.

The two met while at Western Michigan University, where the quarterback wracked up some impressive stats, including setting a school record for passing yards. He lined his mantle with awards like the prestigious Wiiliam V. Campbell award, known as the “academic Heisman.” It’s given to the top scholar-athlete in the country.

Like many athletes, the Homestead High School grad hoped one day to play at the next level. “I really just wanted to play college football. I mean, every kid has dreams of playing NFL. You know, growing up in Indiana, watching Peyton Manning – of course I wanted to be in the NFL. But really I just always wanted to be a college football player.”

The transitions from high school to college to the pros weren’t always easy. Terrell says it’s impossible to truly prepare for a career in football. It’s physically challenging, of course, but he’d spent his whole life training for that. “It’s the emotional and mental part that’s the most challenging,” explained Terrell. “Everybody tells you how to prepare, but it’s really hard to be ready. It’s like they say, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’”

“Through the draft process you’re always selling yourself and always being evaluated,” Terrell says of the stress that a player undergoes at that level. He maintains that the only way to deal with those pressures is to stay positive. “You have to choose to embrace it.”

Terrell says he learned to not let others put labels or limitations on him. “I always have said I’m the ‘King of the Toos.’ I’m too small, too short, too slow. But you can’t listen to that. I always tell kids, ‘That means nothing. You can take yourself to whatever level you want.’”

Terrell credits his parents, Mark and Colleen, with his ability to stay positive and focused on the goals he set for himself. “They are my biggest support system,” he says thankfully. “They’ve gotten me to where I am.”

In addition to a strong work ethic, he says his parents also instilled in him and his siblings – an older brother and sister and a younger brother – a sense of community and a strong faith.

“I led a Bible study with his 12 best friends from 8th grade to 12th,” says Mark. “The Bible study required that he and his friends journal and be in God’s word on a regular basis - something that most Christians never do. I believe that not only having a strong family but a strong personal relationship with Christ allowed him to develop into the man he became.”

“What makes me the proudest of Zach is his willingness to be not only a leader but a spiritual leader. He has a unique ability to blend both in a clearly secular arena,” Mark says of his son’s natural gift to be a role model for others.

Zach says setting a good example is a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly. “I feel fortunate to be in this position. Not many people get to be here. And because of that, I feel an obligation to give back. That comes from the beliefs my parents taught me. It doesn’t just happen. Seeing my dad as the CEO of a non-profit [Lifeline Youth & Family Services] helped me see the value of a servant attitude. It’s not about chasing the money. It’s about treating others the way you’d like to be treated,” says a humble Terrell.

He doesn’t recall the exact moment he realized that he had what it took to make it to the NFL, but does remember thinking, “It would be pretty neat if I could make a living throwing a football around.”

His immediate future in football is uncertain. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens in May, but the team waived him just three days later, so he’s now a free agent. “I hope to find a team that believes in me, doesn’t look just at stature, but looks at my ability and what I have to offer,” Zach says.

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