Most kids daydream of playing college football, but Zach Lujan of Anchorage visualized his gridiron glory.
Then he went out and made it a reality.
The South Dakota State transfer quarterback made a dynamic debut with his new team against the University of Missouri under adverse conditions – facing the nation’s No. 24-ranked team on the road in front of 60,000 people.
The sink-or-swim circumstances would drown most sophomores, but Lujan thrived under the bright lights and was a bright spot in a 38-18 loss.
“My offensive coordinator Eric Eidsness did a great job game planning, getting us ready to play, and we preach here that everybody has to be ready step up to the plate,” Lujan told me. “You never know when you’re number is going to get called. When it is called you have to be ready to step up and accept the challenge, and fortunately I was able to do that.”
Lujan, of South High fame, completed 21-of-28 passes for 239 yards. He threw one interception and completed a pass for a two-point conversion.
“These are the days I’ve been dreaming about since I was 6 years old, so it’s nice to have that dream become a reality and show that I can play at that level,” he said.
We shouldn’t be surprised with Lujan’s performance. Yeah, sure, it was historic to see a college quarterback from Alaska move the ball against an SEC defense. But Lujan has exceled at every level of football and plays with a special confidence.
So when the South Dakota State quarterback got hurt early in the game, Lujan didn’t freak out. He figured it out and made plays.
“I didn’t really have time to think. It was time to play some football,” Lujan said. “I expect nothing but the best for myself, but I want to make sure I don’t come off cocky. I expect myself to perform at that level because that’s what I’ve been trained to do and I’ve been working my whole life for this moment. I just wanted to show everybody that I belonged there and to do it on a national stage in front of 60,000 people was something else. It really meant something to me.”
His performance touched a nerve with his family and friends in Alaska. His cell phone nearly blew up.
“As soon as I got back to the locker room I had 170-plus texts. I can’t even tell you how many Twitter notifications I got, just everybody back home showing support,” he said. “It’s nice having everybody on the home front believing in me. I can’t even express the pride I feel coming from Alaska and being able to play like that.”