Temple football graduate student carries hard work into last year

Zack Mesday was awarded a sixth year of NCAA eligibility on scholarship after two ACL tears early in his career.

Zack Mesday, a graduate student defensive end, earned sixth-year eligibility and will play a major role for the Owls along the defensive line next season. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Zack Mesday was unsure if he wanted to continue to play college football. 

That was, until he found a dime at Temple University football’s practice field.

The graduate student was questioning his future in the sport after his second ACL surgery during his third year at Temple. When Mesday found the dime, he saw it as a sign to keep playing from his grandmother, who died in 2007 from throat cancer. 

“Ever since she passed, we’ve seen dimes everywhere,” Mesday said.

With that luck, and a lot of hard work, Mesday stuck with football and earned an important role on the Owls’ defense last season. Because of this, he earned a sixth year of NCAA eligibility and was placed on scholarship for next season.

Mesday spent five years as a walk-on student-athlete, playing just six games in his first four years.

During the 2018 season, Mesday had 22 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. With another year of eligibility, Mesday will likely be one of the Owls’ starting defensive ends as a part of a rotation.

Last year, Mesday was finally healthy and finished as the Owls’ third-leading sacker and third with eight tackles for loss. 

“It was worth the two ACL surgeries,” Mesday said. “It was worth sticking with it and actually following through with everything.”

“He’s what Temple football is all about,” former defensive tackle Michael Dogbe added. “When you come to Temple, it’s not about the stars or the ranking or the school or even how you get there. Everyone starts on a clean slate and he started from the ground up. And it’s just exciting to see and hear his story and everything he’s ever worked for, it all paid off.”

Zack Mesday, a graduate student defensive end, attempts to block a pass during the Owls’ 27-17 win against South Florida at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 17, 2018. | HO JUN YU / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Mesday knew he wouldn’t play right away as a preferred walk-on. As a result, he redshirted his freshman year in 2014, but tore his ACL later that season. The following year, Mesday tore his ACL again, leading to another redshirt season. 

“Mesday never really wavered in his determination to achieve what he wanted,” former running back Rob Ritrovato said. “Obviously, there was definitely moments where he had low points, but he never showed that to the people on the outside. He always kept pushing forward and took it with a grain of salt.”

To carry his grandmother’s memory on the field, Mesday wears the No. 10 — representing a dime — the same number he wore in high school. Mesday is motivated to perform well in honor of his grandmother.

“People can pass it off as a coincidence if they want, but a dime always appears when I need it,” Mesday added.

Mesday also credits his ability to navigate his college career to his undergraduate degree in early childhood education. 

“That whole process definitely helped me mature,” he added. “Younger kids, they look up to you and think you’re the greatest thing in the world, but you have to be able to not have a relationship that is too friendly, which I would compare to my leadership on the field.”

In Mesday, Dogbe has seen a player who has not backed down from adversity

“I saw a level of consistency and perseverance from Zack,” Dogbe said. “He went through a lot of adversity through his career with the injuries, but he’s always preserved through the hard times.” 

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