Penn State running back Zach Zwinak appears on the 2013 Preseason Maxwell Award Watch List. The Maxwell Award is given to the nation’s top college football player. Seeing Zwinak’s name on the list could come as a bit of a surprise, considering that he was buried on the Nittany Lions’ depth chart at the start of last season.
Entering college, Zwinak was one of the top-rated fullbacks in the nation. He appeared in just two games in 2011 and didn’t figure to see much action in 2012. That all changed when Penn State running backs started getting injured in front of him.
Zwinak was forced into significant action in Week 4 against Temple, where he carried the ball 18 times for 94 yards. He followed that performance up with a breakout game at Illinois, rushing for 100 yards and two scores.
The hard-nosed runner took advantage of his opportunity and impressed everyone while doing it. He played in a total of 10 games, rushing for at least 100 yards in six of them. The Penn State running game struggled to get going early on in the season.
However, that quickly changed once Zwinak found his groove.
He played a major role in the team’s success by establishing a running game that allowed quarterback Matt McGloin and the passing attack to flourish. Zwinak started the final four games of the year and finished the season with 1,000 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
That’s impressive, considering he only received more than 20 carries in five games.
Zwinak finished the year in a big way, carrying the ball 36 times for 179 yards and a touchdown in the nationally-televised season finale against Wisconsin. That performance, paired with the fantastic numbers he put up for the year, is what put him on the national award radar for this season.
Sure, it’s probably a longshot that Zwinak will actually win the Maxwell Award this year. However, considering where he was on the roster just a year ago and how he virtually came out of nowhere, just being mentioned on the preseason list is an honorable feat.