Diamond in the Rough: Zahn Diaz

Zahn Diaz is a 4 star Running Back out of Mandeville High School (Mandeville, LA)and current commit to the 2019 LGF All-Star game held at Louisiana College. Diaz has a current GPA of 3.3 and an ACT score of 22. Coming into his senior year, Zahn posts a bench press of 305lbs with a squat of 500lbs. Talking with Zahn, he told me that he first found a love for football through his older brother. At a very young age, Zahn’s brother would use him as a practice tool, throwing him around the yard and making Zahn try to tackle him. Because of this fierce competitiveness and aggressiveness, Zahn said he immediately took a liking to the sport and could not wait to start playing for real. 

Zahn, are there any goals that you have set for yourself or as a team for this upcoming season?

I’m all about the team. Coming out as a unit and getting a win is paramount. The team will always take priority over any individual stat. If I, or a teammate of mine’s main focus is about individual stats, then something is wrong. So, I would say my main goal is to go out each week and get a win. Simple as that.

That seems like the right attitude to have, however, if you had to pick something you’re looking forward to, personally, for this season, what would that be?

Well, last year I was 2 yards shy of breaking the school single-game rushing record. The record was 309 yards, and I rushed for 307. That is a sort of goal I would like to get accomplished this season.

Walk me through the mindset of coming up just 2 yards shy of a record of that caliber. How does that affect your psyche as a player being that close to having your name in the record books?

It’s all motivation. I would never look at that and take it as negative. If anything it lit something inside me. I know I have the potential to break that because I was essentially one carry away. Now, every game I come out knowing I am a record setting-type of back. That kind of confidence is great to go into every game possessing. 

Is there a part of preparing for a game that is especially difficult? Any sort of pre-game or in-game rituals you do that helps you get ready for game day?

The hardest part is nerves. If a player doesn’t have a little nervousness then something is wrong. I understand that there is a beneficial amount of nervousness that is only natural before a game, so I never let that steer my game. As far as during a game, I think it is important to keep yourself in check and take everything one snap at a time. If you can mentally slow everything down, you already have a mental edge over your opponent and that pregame nervousness quickly fades.

Can you describe to me the type of running back you are? Is there any current or former back that you see yourself in and model your game after?

I’m definitely a back that can be categorized as speedy and shifty. I love using my speed and athleticism to set the tone and avoid tackles. That doesn’t mean I’m afraid of contact. I have no problems lowering my shoulder and delivering a powerful hit to pick up extra yardage.

As far as modeling my game after someone? I don’t think I do. I love the older guys, legends like Barry Sanders, however, I’m not trying to be someone else. When I play, I want to play it my way and be unique. I look inward towards myself as Zahn Diaz and want people to recognize my style of play as unique. 

Talking about your uniqueness as a running back and your style of play, is there any misconceptions you believe people have about you? Either as a player or just as a person in general?

Build wise, I sometimes feel disrespected. People see my height and weight and automatically assume what type of player I am or how good I am. I’m 5’9, 185 lbs. But I don’t play like a “small” back. My strength greatly compensates for my size. I believe because of how strong I am, along with my speed, i can go toe-to-toe with anybody. 

Is there any style of offense that best compliments you as a back? Is there a certain play that you always look forward to?

I’m used to running the spread offense, but I’m a versatile athlete. I can play in any offense that my coach asks of me. For a favorite play, definitely outside zone running. I love open space. When I get the ball in an outside zone, It gives me the opportunity to let my patience as a back shine and wait for those lanes to open up where I can utilize my athleticism to the best of my abilities. 

Lastly, is there one college in particular that you would describe as your dream school?

It has to be Southern Mississippi. I had the opportunity to go to one of their camps and I immediately fell in love with the family atmosphere they provided. They treated me like I was one of them and the whole environment was extremely welcoming. I’d also like to study either engineering or business, and I feel that Southern Miss is a great university overall.