When freshman quarterback Zach Lujan of Anchorage arrived at Chabot College in California he was fourth on the depth chart. After summer workouts, he was second. After the first scrimmage, he was first.
“I still remember my first conversation with my coach on game day before our first game. He had a conversation with the backups as well as me, and he basically said, ‘You guys need to be ready because we don’t know how Zach is going to perform,’” Lujan said.
“Afterwards, I pulled him aside and said, ‘Thanks coach I appreciate your concern, but you have nothing to worry about.’”
Lujan, 19, has never lacked confidence. He has pledged to be great, and continues to back it up on the field, determined to take his football career as far as possible.
Now he’s headed to South Dakota State after just one season of junior college football.
Lujan, a South High graduate, has signed with the Jackrabbits of the NCAA Division I FCS level, formerly known as Division I-AA. Twenty-one other Chabot College players advanced to the D1 level, but Lujan is the only freshman to do so.
“Speaking with my coaches at South Dakota State, they view me as being ready to play right now vs. me needing another year to develop,” he said.
At Chabot College, Lujan accounted 2,050 total yards – 1,820 through the air and 230 on the ground – and 18 touchdowns [15 passing, 3 running]. He completed 59 percent of his passes.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder was named Golden Gate Conference Offensive Player of the Year and first-team all-league quarterback, leading Chabot to an 8-3 record and a victory in a bowl game. He was one of only four freshman named to the all-conference team.
“Winning is everything,” Lujan said. “I don’t just say it, I preach it. Nobody wants someone from a losing team, but everyone wants someone from a winning team.”
Lujan is one of the few quarterbacks to come out of Alaska and play college football -- at any level. He doesn’t sit around thinking, why me?
“Why not me,” Lujan said. “I always felt Alaska as a whole is very under-recruited, so lots of guys go the (Division 3) route or NAIA route. I’ve seen comparable talent from the Lower 48 go D1 or D2. I wasn’t happy with offers out of high school, so I went the (junior college) route. I loved it.”
He played himself into a starting job at Chabot College and then earned himself an opportunity at South Dakota State.
“I love what they are doing with their program,” Lujan said. “I’m going to go there and compete for a national championship, be a three-year starter and pre-law; I want to go to law school. Not a lot else I could ask for.”
This post first appeared on the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame website. Van Williams, a 20-year local sports writer and the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, writes about the athletic exploits of Alaskans for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.