Field goal kicker Greg Zuerlein is using his one season with the Griffons to turn himself into a legitimate pro prospect.
“He is going to be in an NFL camp next fall,” coach Jerry Partridge said. “We have had a lot of NFL teams come through, and that’s the feedback that I’m getting,”
When the University of Nebraska-Omaha announced it was shutting down its football program, it was news to Zuerlein.
“I was shocked, and I didn’t have any forewarning or anything,” Zuerlein said. “I was surprised at their decision to shut down the program.”
Partridge wasted no time in pursuing the strong-legged field goal kicker after MIAA teams were cleared to go after former UNO players.
“He was the first call I made,” Partridge said. “I just knew what kind of a weapon he was and what a special football player he is, because of how well he kicks.”
Zuerlein chose Western because he admired the athletic facilities and because of the way he had seen the coaches develop kickers in the past.
“Specifically the kicking coach Jay White,” Zuerlein said. “He has helped a lot of the kickers get better here, and I thought he could help me, so that was the biggest thing.”
Zuerlein was a three-time all-conference selection at UNO. He hit 136 field goals in his three-year-career, with a long of 52 yards. He holds the school record for consecutive extra point conversions with 61 straight. He also has a school record of 131 PATs made in his career.
In 2010, what would have been Zuerlein’s senior year, he suffered a torn labrum in the hip and was forced to sit out the season with a medical red-shirt.
“I was just kicking, and I felt a pop, and I couldn’t kick anymore,” Zuerlein said. “Now I’m getting back into the swing of things. I’ve had some setbacks, but I’m finally getting back to being 100 percent.”
Zuerlein has already impacted the Western record books after playing five games. Against Missouri Southern State, he set the school record for longest field goal with 57 yards and tied the record for field goals made in a game with five.
Zuerlein is 13-14 in field goal attempts on the season, including 4-4 from over 50 yards. That type of leg strength is exactly what professional teams look for in a kicker.
“I would definitely like to play football after college, but that’s mainly on the back burner for me right now,” said Zuerlein. “I just want to do what I can here and see what happens.”
Being able to depend on getting three points whenever the team can’t convert on third down is a great safety-net for the Griffon offense. Zuerlein leads the Griffons in scoring with 56 points on the season.
“When we start getting into his range we kind of start pulling the reins back a little bit, and it’s been effective,” Partridge said. “He has been a great teammate to the kids, and he’s just a great kicker.”
Coming to a new school, Zuerlein admits he did not know what to expect, but everything has gone well for him so far at Western.
“I love it here; it’s awesome,” Zuerlein said. “From the coaches to the players, everything is great. I feel like I have really been accepted into the program.”