Former Panther Zach Lord transfers from DBU basketball to play football at University of Arizona
By Keith Sparks
Zach Lord graduated from Liberty Hill High School as a star on the Panther basketball team with a scholarship to play for Dallas Baptist University. Two years later, the former center is taking his 6’10” frame to the football field to play Division I football at the University of Arizona.
Lord hasn’t played organized football since junior high, but after a somewhat rocky start to his collegiate basketball career, he began reaching out to Division I football coaches across the country.
“Basketball for me in college was a little different than I was expecting,” Lord said. “My freshman year, I played as much as a freshman would expect, maybe five, 10 minutes a game, then my sophomore year, I got all-conference tournament awards, but I was still only going to get 15-20 minutes a game, just because he wanted to play smaller, so I was like, ‘Well, I kind of want to play a little more than that and do something different.’”
As someone who had zero varsity football experience, Lord knew coaches wouldn’t come knocking, so he took it upon himself to start making phone calls directly to university athletic offices, eventually garnering interest from the University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Arizona, among others.
Standing at 6’10” and weighing in at close to 280 pounds, Lord figured he’d have a better shot at making the NFL than the NBA, which is quickly transitioning to a “small-ball” league.
“I’ve always wanted to play football, so I started making calls to see what I could do,” Lord said. “I got on the transfer list, then I sat down for probably three or four days and called every Division I football coach in the nation just to ask if they had a spot. The top three that I got to visit were Memphis, SMU, and Arizona. Then I was just narrowing it down to which school I liked more.
“The main reason I wanted to switch to football is because I think I have a better chance of going to play in the NFL than I do in the NBA,” he said.
Lord said the first Arizona coach to give him a shot was Offensive Line Coach Kyle DeVan, who watched his basketball film and quickly realized his feet were quicker than most 6’10” athletes.
“I got in contact with Coach Kyle DeVan, which is the o-line coach, and when I first called and told him what I was trying to do, his question was, ‘Ok, do you have any film?’” Lord said, “and I said, ‘No sir, I don’t have any film,’ but I sent him my basketball film, instead, and he said he was definitely interested, just because I don’t move like a typical five man in basketball.”
Upon his first visit to UA, Lord sat down with the coaching staff to set realistic expectations and make sure he’d have an opportunity to play.
“Then I went out there on a visit, got to sit down with Coach Singletary, Coach Sumlin, Demarco Murray, and just told them what I was trying to do and asking if I was a fit for their program,” Lord said. “I just wanted to be realistic, like, ‘Do you think I’ll have a chance to get on the field?’ and they said yes, I have a really good chance just because of my size. I’ll be the biggest kid in the program right now.”
Lord’s primary focus is to play the tight end position, but said the Arizona coaching staff will likely have him playing defensive end and left tackle at some point. To prepare, Lord is working with a handful of his friends that have played college football to show him the ropes.
“I’ve been working out with some of my friends that play at the next level,” Lord said. “One of my friends was the quarterback at SMU, so we’ve been doing football drills and stuff, working out with him, and then just hitting the weights and trying to keep my weight around 280.”
The biggest adjustment, Lord said, will likely be learning how to take a hit without getting crushed. Those that have played football for years naturally learn how to avoid contact, but Lord has to figure it out in a matter of months.
“I think the biggest thing is going to be learning to take a hit, learning to deflect a hit instead of just getting hit,” Lord said. “That’s what a lot of my friends have told me is just to learn how to deflect a hit, so I think that will be the biggest one, and just the technique.”
As a long-time basketball player, though, Lord’s footwork and full-court conditioning should give him some advantages that most 6’10” football players don’t have.
“My footwork, because basketball, as a post, there’s a lot of footwork and learning how to move your body around people,” Lord said. “My footwork, my agility, and my conditioning. Coming from basketball, I’m going to be in a whole lot different condition than those football guys will be.”
Lord will pack up his belongings in Dallas and head to Tucson this week before training camp starts on June 3.