Editor’s note: This is the final story in a series detailing the college football recruiting process through the eyes of one player.
by Kent Zakour
Damascus High School senior Zach Bradshaw went on a shopping spree on Aug. 7.
The two-way football star, fresh off a verbal commitment to the University of Virginia, found a clothing store in Charlottesville and bought several articles of Cavalier merchandise, including t-shirts, shorts, sweats, a football and a decal for his Chevy Tahoe truck.
“I’m loaded now with UVA gear,” he said during a phone interview last week. “But mainly, I’m just glad this whole process is over, again.”
The in-person commitment to Cavaliers coach Mike London concluded a stressful two-week stretch for Bradshaw. During breakfast on Aug. 7, Bradshaw called first-year Penn State coach Bill O’Brien to revoke his June 27 verbal commitment before driving to the Virginia campus with his mother.
“It was a tough decision for him and he didn't want to make it an emotional one,” said Mike Bradshaw, Zach's father. “He waited a couple of weeks and it still was a terribly tough decision.”
Last month, in the wake of a report detailing the child sex abuse scandal, the NCAA levied sanctions against the Penn State football program. They included a four-year postseason ban, reduction of scholarships and $60 million in fines.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound three-star prospect was also debating whether to accept offers from Northwestern and South Carolina, his other finalists, but he decided he felt most at home in Virginia. Damascus assistant coach Gregg Frazier reached out to several college programs after the Penn State sanctions were announced, but Bradshaw never officially reopened his recruitment.
Bradshaw, who said no coach directly contacted him in attempt to sway his commitment, also has several connections to Virginia. Youth football teammate and Our Lady of Good Counsel senior quarterback Brendan Marshall committed to the Cavaliers earlier this year, and 2011 Damascus graduate Brandon Phelps is a defensive back at Virginia.
“UVA is where I was most comfortable and I feel really good about it,” said Bradshaw, who added he is interested in studying kinesiology and can see himself as physical education teacher and coach after his football career is over. “Having those guys there only helped me feel more comfortable. It definitely didn’t hurt and it would be pretty cool if we can all get on the field together at some point.”
Virginia recruited Bradshaw as an athlete and he will likely begin his college career as an outside linebacker, but could potentially move the offense as an H-back. As a first team All-Gazette selection last fall, he caught 35 passes for 466 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He also returned two punts for touchdowns and averaged 19.4 yards per punt return.
“I know a lot of the people in Damascus are happy,” he said. “They won’t have to go to different places to watch us.”