Senior lineman has no regrets, learned lessons while playing

NICK_2011-01-26_Football_Walk-ons_Elisabeth

Elisabeth Dillon

Nick Zajicek achieved the dream of becoming a walk on as a freshman.

Elijah Perez

More often than not, the most a walk-on achieves is a position on the practice squad, helping the more highly recruited, more visible scholarship athletes put in the work to become stars on game day.

However, for Nick Zajicek, a spot on the scout team meant something more. It was an opportunity to continue playing the game he loved at the school he always dreamed of going to.

“I applied to Texas, Rice and SMU. If I got into Texas, I was going to go to Texas,” said Zajicek, an exercise science senior from Cameron, Texas.

Coming out of Yoe High School, Zajicek had planned to become involved with the athletic training department. However, a spot on the sideline left this athlete, a former three-sport letterman in high school, yearning for a more active role.

Zajicek recalls the time he spent watching football practice as a training staff member as the point when the decision to tryout for the team formulated in his mind.

“I was at the practices for two weeks and I was like ‘I think I’m as good or better than a lot of these walk-ons,” Zajicek said.

With this winning mentality, Zajicek began preparations for a return to the game of football. There wasn’t much time to ponder the decision, as Nick points out.

“I decided I was going to try out in October, and tryouts were in late January,” he said.

Zajicek ended up earning a walk-on spot. Happy for making the team, Zajicek quickly found out just what kind of strength he’d need if he wanted to stick around.

“My first day of offseason, I threw up all over the place,” he said.

And things wouldn’t get any easier. As preseason training went along, the practices only got tougher. Zajicek remembers the first practice he had with the team in pads. His assignment that day was to block then starting middle linebacker, Jared Norton.

“That wasn’t very pleasant,” he said.

But, as the offseason wore on, Zajicek became more comfortable in his role.

“After time, you can definitely hold your own against the better players,” Zajicek said.

And he held it for the next three and a half years.

Though the title of “walk-on athlete” does not pull the celebrity status often afforded to scholarship athletes, Zajicek notes that this discrepancy did not create tension in the locker room. Jealousy held no place among scout team players.

“We’re all happy to be there. But, you have to know your role on the team. If you do your best, it’s going to help the team,” he said.

Now, after finishing his final season, Zajicek looks back on his time at the 40 Acres. When asked if he had any regrets for foregoing a more “normal” college life, one with more opportunities for socializing with friends and fewer 5 a.m. workouts, Zajicek was quick to respond, “No, absolutely not.”

“I think football, when I’m done with everything and I have my resume and it says that I played football at Texas, that’s a pretty big deal. So, you know, I’m happy with the choice I made.”

During his four years as a member of the UT football team, Zajicek contributed to teams that went to three bowl games, won one Big 12 title, and competed for a BCS National Championship.

Despite these achievements, Zajicek isn’t content with resting on his laurels. In giving his time and dedication to the team, Nick Zajicek has received something worth more than praise — he’s proven to himself that he can do anything.

“I’ve learned that pretty much everything is mental,” he said. “If somebody told me ‘You can’t do this,’ I would tell ’em ‘I can,’ because I know that I can.”