*This story was featured on hastingstribune.com on June 13, 2016.
Despite joining his new teammates and coaches just a short time ago, Sam Zeleny already has a feel for this week’s Nebraska 8-Man All-Star camp and game.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought, competitive game,” Zeleny said. “But it’s going to be really fun, too.”
After arriving to campus Sunday for a week-long camp in preparation for Saturday’s game at Hastings College, Zeleny, who plays for the East team, joined his teammates for a team meeting, a barbecue and participated in a half-pad practice early Monday morning.
The camp experience, however short lived, has been good so far.
“It’s pretty cool. A lot of these guys, it’s good to see them,” he said. “Plus meeting new kids you never knew about is cool. It’s been a good experience so far.”
He, like every other player participating in Saturday’s game, has one last chance to play arguably the most admired aspect of teenage years – high school football. Although the game won’t be under the lights on a Friday night, it does provide players one last time to play the game they love and perhaps redeem late-season missteps.
Zeleny and his Exeter-Milligan teammates played what he thought was his last high school football game in the D-2 quarterfinals on November 10 against Wynot. Zeleny, who was later voted as a D-2 All-State ATH, completed nine of 14 pass attempts for 87 yards and a touchdown, while adding 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Still, Wynot rattled off 30 unanswered points and ended the T’Wolves’ bid for three straight state championship titles.
Ultimately, Zeleny hopes this all-star game experience will provide a bit of closure on his high school career.
“It’s nice to wrap it up and hopefully end with a win,” he said.
While his high school career will definitely end after Saturday’s game, Zeleny isn’t done on the gridiron. The dual-sport star — along with fellow Tribland standout and West team running back Preston Schnitzler — is poised to join the Concordia University Bulldogs football program next fall. He is preparing to play either slot receiver or defensive back.
He cited the support from his hometown of Milligan as a driving force in his pursuit of success on the field and in the classroom.
“(In all-star games) you play for yourself and your teammates, but you have to play for your town, too. That’s a big part. They’re really supportive and want you to do the best,” he said. “They’ve always been 100 percent supportive and they love sports, but it’s really an honor to have little kids look up to you like that.”
The competitor in Zeleny hopes for a win on Saturday at 1:30 at Hastings College’s Lloyd Wilson Field, but he realizes games like this provide other opportunities that go far beyond wining or losing.
“I hope to win, but also just to build some friendships,” he said. “I think we’ll do pretty good.”