Zac is another in the long line of creative minds who've come out of Manchester. After some years away in college, he first settled in Strongsville and, since 2004, he's lived in Wadsworth. Zac's currently single (we think), but adds: "I'd love to tell you all about my wonderful, out-of-my-league girlfriend...but then my other girlfriends might find out." Just eight years out of high school, he's already had some fascinating experiences on the pro sports level, and we asked Zac to give us an inside-look. Here's one of the more entertaining profiles you'll read:
Education or training after MHS:
Attended Ohio University for two years before landing as an intern with the Cleveland Browns. Transferred my credits to The University of Akron to begin a painful, part-time process of finishing my degree.
Your Occupation history:
I wrote for the (high school's) Panther Press for four years, then for The Suburbanite and the Canal Courier. My senior year I wrote a book on the MHS football season - "Bleeding Red and Black" - and I wrote a little bit for the student paper at OU. I continued writing for The Suburbanite, and on my breaks from OU I covered games for the Medina Gazette. In June of 2000 I started with the Browns as a wide-eyed intern, and I earned the chance to stick around.
Since then I've done a ton of writing on ClevelandBrowns.com, cover-stories for game programs, columns in the Browns Huddle magazine, freelance stuff for NFL Insider, and whole lot else. The draft is my favorite; I've been to six NFL Scouting Combines and two Senior Bowls. I was at every Browns game, home and away, in the Butch Davis Era. I remember all of it---the 17-point lead in the playoff game at Pittsburgh, the bottle-throwing game, the Hail Mary in Jacksonville, the 14-point lead in Chicago, the helmet toss, Jamal Lewis' 295 yards rushing, beating Pittsburgh on Sunday night. I know I'm forgetting a couple messy but memorable games.
I spent a week in Baltimore with the Ravens. I've been to college practices and bowl games with coaches and the general manager. I was on the team plane after some crazy wins and even crazier losses. I took a limo with three players to crown the winner of the Hall of Fame beauty pageant in Canton. Rough job, but somebody's gotta do it.
Interesting things you've done since high school:
I assume this is a family show and you want the printable version. In many ways I answered this question with my job history. The travel, the people, the unpredictability of the NFL...they're all very interesting. I'd say living for two years with three of my buddies and MHS alums - Brian Workman ('97), Steve Soles ('97) and Terry Harbaugh ('96) - certainly qualifies as interesting.
Sharing the NFL experience, at least for a little while, with Rob Adamson ('98) was incredible when he was in camp with the Chargers and Panthers. I didn't make it to Europe when he played there in the spring of '03, but I'll never forget the day in '02 when I flew from Columbus to Pittsburgh to Roanoke for Rob's last game with Mount Union College, then two hours after the game I flew from Roanoke to Pittsburgh to Baltimore for the Browns' game the next day. (Rob quarterbacked Mt. Union to his 2nd consecutive Div. III National Championship that day, by the way.)
I've been to 26 of the 31 NFL stadiums. I've seen my favorite singer, Pat Green, in three different states. I've been to several bachelor parties for MHS alums in Las Vegas. Pretty tame stuff, really. Nashville probably qualifies as my favorite city, with Austin, Indy, Baltimore and Fort Myers slightly behind.
Current Hobbies / Activities:
Cooking gourmet meals (bologna and frozen chicken nuggets), studying otherwise useless information on all levels of football, playing cards, watching my brother play basketball and still making it to as many Manchester games as I can. One of my favorites is speaking at schools, with my annual talk to the 5th graders at Manchester definitely topping the list.
Favorite teacher at Manchester, and why:
The late Mr. Shaw made an impression on me and many others with his approach, his thoroughness, and the way he treated everyone. Mrs. Grandjean was always a personal favorite because she wouldn't budge an inch (I needed a challenge); and Mrs. Austin and Mrs. White, for as much as they both probably wanted to strangle me, they occasionally brought out the best in me. I know Mrs. Austin held her breath whenever I got on morning announcements with Greg Simms or Jeremy Coyle, but we kept it (mostly) clean.
Favorite subject or class at MHS:
The newspaper class, which I had 9th period for all four years of my existence. I know to Mrs. White it probably seems like 40 years.
Least favorite subject at MHS:
Anything science-related. Math was another nemesis. I could count to 7, 14 and 21 when I watched football, but the whole X minus Y2 thing was not for me.
Favorite memories from school:
Too many. All the great games, the great characters, the stories we still tell. I was fortunate enough to know and hang out with many of the older kids when I was younger, and at least few younger kids when I was a junior and senior. Mix that with the special group that the Class of '98 was, on and off the athletic field, and I wouldn't trade those car rides to the girls games, the Key Club lock-ins or the laughs I got as a gym helper with Rich Swain for anything. The pep rallies during the run to the state (football) finals in '97 were pretty special, too, and hearing that song "Stomp" still gives me chills. Not that anyone other than me would ever listen to that ridiculous song, but I know those two Fridays go down in history.
Your thoughts about attending Manchester schools, in general...
What a wonderful place to grow up. Good teachers, good kids, good opportunities. I think that shows in the successes that so many MHS grads have after they graduate. If I'm out of state and someone asks me where I'm from, I always get mad at myself if I say "Cleveland" or "Akron." I'm proud to be from Manchester.
What sports, if any, did you play / letter at MHS?
I played basketball - not very much or very well, but I was there. I did attempt a dunk on Senior Night in '98, but it didn't exactly make ESPN.
Other H.S. activities / clubs you enjoyed:
I was always in student council and Key Club, in addition to the newspaper and trying not to miss a game of any sort. The "Panther Pound" is what we called ourselves. I really don't know when I slept or did my homework, and there would be some (like Mrs. Austin) who would say I didn't.
Did you have any favorite high school "hangouts?"
Dusty and Stevie Smith's basement, the bonfire at Josh Jackson's, Mindy Gibbs' house, and either Rally's or Swensons. Yes, I went to greasy, drive-in burger joints before the dances and I wouldn't change it if I could.
Favorite music from your H.S. era, and current favorite:
We jammed to pretty much every cheesy rap song there was - too bad no one told us how cheesy they were. Today I'm a country guy, but I still love to listen to Tupac and a little Snow "Informer."
Do you still have family / alumni living in Manchester?
My parents still live in the same house on Southcrest. Their favorite son, Brody ('04), is finishing his sophomore year at Bethany College, which is just north of Wheeling and just across the river from Steubenville. When he's not studying in the library or helping old ladies cross the street, he starts at the two-guard for the Bethany basketball team.
My cousin Jonise Barry (also '98) is still in the area but not in Manchester, and her sister is now Lisa Dasho. Lisa ('96) and her husband, Brad ('94), still live in Manchester with their two-year old daughter, Madelyn. Lisa and Jonise's younger brother, Jeremiah Wanko, will be a senior football and basketball player at MHS in 2006-07.
Old friends and new fans can shoot Zac a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org.