Zach Blystone spent more time in court hearings than he did playing in football games last fall, but that has not stopped the Washington High School lineman from pursuing his dream of playing college football.
Blystone, who transferred from Charleroi prior to the 2013-14 school year, was declared ineligible by the WPIAL and PIAA, which both cited his move was spurred by athletic intent.
It was a lengthy litigation fit for an episode of Judge Judy.
The 6-2, 278-pound rising senior was declared eligible to play against Brownsville Oct. 4, but only took a few snaps and was declared ineligible for the remainer of the season just days later.
He did not let the frustration stop him from practicing every day with the Prexies and he took his frustrations out in the weight room by maxing out at 370 pounds on the bench press and 545 pounds in the squat. Sulking was not in his vocabulary.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Blystone said of his ineligibility. “I was already feeling pretty terrible. I was surprised I got to play that much. I put it behind me and wanted to get ready for next season.”
Blystone must be ready. He received his first athletic scholarship offer from NCAA 1-AA Duquesne last week. Virginia Military Institute also offered Blystone soon after that.
The Duquesne offer came just before Blystone attended Pitt’s high school prospects camp last Friday on the South Side of Pittsburgh. He was joined by teammates Malik Wells, Jordan West, Nate Swart and Khalid Blount.
“Zach has done a great job,” Wash High head coach Mike Bosnic said. “He has a lot of things going for him. He went through a difficult junior season, but he has worked extremely hard. With everything that happened, he continued to practice and after practice, he lifted weights. He kept preparing for next year, and he is really starting to get a lot of attention.”
Blystone began to grab attention in January when he traveled to the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio, where he benched 185 pounds 28 times and showed off his athleticism by running the 40-yard dash in 5.16 seconds.
Missing all but a few snaps of his junior season did not come without a cost for Blystone. Most colleges use game tape as a tool to measure a player’s explosiveness and playmaking ability on every down.
Having a head coach such as Bosnic, who had a successful career at Pitt, vouch for a player’s determination is always a plus. The Prexies’ coach does not think a lack of game film hurt Blystone.
“I really don’t because the one thing I have pointed out to coaches is everything this kid went through, all of those bad things happened, but this kid obviously has the work ethic and dedication to be a Division I football player,” Bosnic said. “He never got down on himself and he got after it on the field and in the weight room.”
Pitt, West Virginia, Bowling Green and Ohio also have expressed interest in Blystone. And he is not the only Washington player drawing national attention.
Wells, who gained acclaim last season while filling in for Shai McKenzie at running back, attended the Nike Football Training Camp June 1 at Ohio State and is being looked at as a cornerback.
Bosnic was impressed by his players’ showing at the Pitt camp and is ready for the 2014 season with Blystone’s pass rushing ability paving the way.
“We are real excited,” Bosnic said. “We have a lot of key pieces coming back. They are a good group of kids who we think can take us a long way.”