Bauman eyeing the pros, staying grounded

 

By Dani Tamcsin

(Photo by Sean Ryan)

When junior running back Zach Bauman came to the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Football training camp as a freshman in 2010, he made a big transition from his high school years. Bauman was a star athlete in high school, leading the Hamilton football program to back-to-back state championships and managing to letter in track and basketball in his spare time. At the Lumberjacks’ practice field, Bauman was the new kid in town. As one of three running backs, Bauman had to work much harder to stand out.

According to junior quarterback Cary Grossart, he did just that.

“We didn’t know much about him, but there were three running backs at training camp that year and we weren’t sure who was going to stand out,” Grossart said. “All of a sudden Zach emerged as ‘the guy.’ The first game, he instantly gained credibility and respect from the guys.”

In his first game, Bauman started his college career with a 4-touchdown game against Western New Mexico University. His performance earned him The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS National Freshman of the Week and Division I FCS Performer of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards. The rest is history.

Hamilton High School’s alumnus has been an undeniable force on the football field ever since. During the 2011 season, Bauman led the Big Sky Conference in rushing with 130.5 yards per game; he was ranked ninth in total offense and fourth in scoring in the nation. He rushed for 1,435 yards with 15 touchdowns, the second best total in NAU’s history and recorded 1,787 all-purpose yards. He was also third on the team for receptions with 29 for 352 yards and one touchdown.

NAU made history this season when they upset the University of Montana, 41–31, for the first time since 1997. Bauman gave an outstanding 253-yard performance and scored three of the team’s five touchdowns. This past season, following a narrow loss to Montana, Montana’s standout running back Jordan Canada praised Bauman and saw the threat he would pose in the future.

“Bauman is an incredible athlete,” Canada said. “The fact that he’s only a sophomore is crazy and it’s going to be something we’ll have to watch out for in the next couple seasons.”

Before the start of the 2012 season, Bauman was named to the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team, as well as the College Sports Madness Preseason All-America Third Team. Most notably, this season Bauman was placed on the watch list for the 2012 Walter Payton award, given to the best college player in the FCS. Not to mention his 660 all-purpose yards in this season’s first five games to go along with seven touchdowns.

Despite all of the accolades and expectations, Bauman has not let the pressure get to him; in fact, he thrives on it.

“I set the highest expectations for myself,” Bauman said. “And those expectations everyone else has for me only motivate me. I play much better under pressure. I learned this year that I can push myself farther than I thought I could.”

Bauman certainly has the stats, attention and drive. However, there’s more to a great student athlete than finding tough routes and making the big plays. Bauman’s current priority is the often forgotten “student” part of student-athlete. He has managed to maintain a 3.0 GPA while juggling football and schoolwork. Cary Grossart has noticed Bauman’s focus on school not just as a quarterback, but as Zach’s roommate.

“He knows how important it is,” Grossart said. “He’s got his routine down, from making sure he’s putting aside enough time to study, to how clean and organized he keeps his room.”

So it does not look like Lumberjacks fans have to worry about losing Bauman to academic issues. Grades? Check. Focus? Check. Talent? Double check (not to be confused with an Aaron Rodgers Discount Double Check.) Bauman has also proven himself as a leader. He has been a team captain since his sophomore year. Grossart describes Bauman as “the soft-spoken guy on the team.” Bauman admits to being quieter than some, but he believes that makes him a stronger leader for his teammates.

“I don’t really talk much so when I speak up, I think the team really feels it,” Bauman said. “I try to lead by example. If the guys see me doing the right things, hopefully it’ll carry on throughout the team.”

As another team captain, Grossart agrees.

“The way he plays speaks for itself; that’s really all he needs to do,” Grossart said. “But he does say what needs to be said and the guys listen. He’s a strong leader in a lot of ways.”

Seems like there should be a halo rather than a helmet around Bauman’s head. A standout player from his first game on with numerous accolades and awards, a high GPA and a strong leader, can it get any better? NAU certainly hopes so. With such a promising start to the season, Bauman carries much of the school’s hopes on his shoulders. Bauman’s sights reach even beyond the 2012 Big Sky season.

“You always have to have an education but ever since I was little, all I’ve ever wanted to do is go pro. School has to be my first priority right now but big picture, I want to go pro,” Bauman said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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