From Troy to Tech
Published 8:01 pm Friday, August 8, 2014
Zac Etheridge’s journey is far more than 181 miles of interstate highway
The scene was nothing new to longtime Charles Henderson fans.
Zac Etheridge paced the sidelines offering words of encouragement to orange-and-blue clad football players. However, Etheridge never stepped on the field to play. He was there just as a spectator.
Etheridge was in town a few weeks back for the Wiregrass 7-on-7 Championship and stopped by the field to watch one of his younger relatives take part in the competition. The former Charles Henderson and Auburn star watched his alma mater for a while, and noticed something that made him want to speak up: the Trojans were just going through the motions.
Following a loss to Andalusia in the first round of the tournament, Etheridge gathered up the players and gave a speech from the heart.
“Anytime I can come back to my high school and be a positive role model for the kids, I want to do it,” Etheridge said. “I want these guys to see that if you work hard and do the right thing, good things can happen. It is all about how hard you are willing to work.”
Etheridge was a star running back and defensive player for Hugh Fountain’s Charles Henderson Trojans in the early part of the new millennium before taking his talents to The Plains.
Etheridge suffered a severe injury in 2009 following a collision with teammate Antonio Coleman. Etheridge lay motionless on the turf at Jordan-Hare Stadium for several minutes before being carted off. He was forced to wear a neck brace for six months
However, Etheridge would return to football the next season and closed his college career in grand fashion by helping the Tigers win the 2010 BCS National Championship.
Etheridge said there was no way he was going to let his career end that day in 2009.
“I just love the game of football too much,” Etheridge said. “I woke up every day wanting to get better and play again. I was able to do that, but I still get up with the same thought in my head. I want to be a better person at the end of the day than I was when I started it.”
Etheridge took his talents to the NFL following his time at Auburn, playing one season with the Oakland Raiders. He returned to the college game as a coach at Penn State in 2012, before reuniting in 2013 with Ted Roof, his coach while at Auburn, at Georgia Tech.
Etheridge admits his new as a secondary coach for the Yellow Jackets is nowhere near the same as being on the field, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“There is a little more work on the administrative side, but it’s football and you sure can’t beat that,” Etheridge said. “My favorite part about being a coach is being able to take things from the film room to the field and teaching it to the guys so they can be successful. I love seeing my guys grow, develop and get better. I want to be a mentor to these guys, and help them go from boys when they get here to good men when they leave.”
Despite his fall being consumed with Tech football, Etheridge says he always keeps a check on the Trojans. His interest will be especially high over the next few seasons as his cousin will look to follow in the family business.
“I want the boys at Charles Henderson to be great,” said Etheridge. “There are a lot of great players here in town that they can talk to and learn from. I played here and was able to do everything I wanted to do. I wish the same for them, and will keep a watch on them in the future.”