CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Zane Zandier will be the first player to ever wear Jersey Number ‘Zero’ for the UVA football team.
The NCAA made a rule change this offseason, allowing players to wear Zero for the first time.
Zandier had worn ’33′ during his first three years on Grounds, but decided to switch it up for his senior season.
“Thought it’d be a great opportunity to make a little history, and be able to wear it for the first time, for UVA,” says Zandier. “I think it’s really different. It’s unique. I love it, so far. It looks pretty good on the jersey, and I’m feeling good in it.”
The inside linebacker has been setting the bar high for numbers throughout his career.
Zandier led the ’Hoos with 108 tackles last year, and he was second on the team with 12.5 tackles for a loss.
“The first thing we always focus on, and the key to having a great defense, is playing good run defense,” says Zandier. “That’s always one of our biggest emphases.”
The Cavaliers switched from a 4-3 Defense to a 3-4 Defense when the current coaching staff arrived five years ago, and inside linebackers coach Shane Hunter says the linebacker position is the deepest it’s been.
“We got a bunch of really good players who can play a lot of snaps for us,” says Hunter, “and right behind them, if anything does happen, we have a lot of really good players, too.”
Zandier adds, “We have guys returning that have two or three years (experience), that know the defense really well. I think we’re able to help the young guys with that, and move along a lot faster.”
Nick Jackson played in all fourteen games as a true freshman last season, and he’s following the example set by Zandier.
“Zane’s an unbelievable teammate,” says Jackson. “Just to have him every day, just playing right beside him, and learning. His physicality, his leadership, and everything he brings to the table. Just trying to emulate what he does. It’s just unbelievable to have as a teammate. Big brother to me.”
Zandier says, “We’re taking more of a leadership role with the players, than coaches telling us what to do, and how to do it. It’s kind of been on us to set the standard and show the young guys, and the guys behind us, underneath us, the way we do things, and how we do things.”
Zandier says he’s been impressed with the leadership from the university during the pandemic.
“Everybody that’s been in charge of how they’re handling the insane circumstances that we’ve been put under, they’ve given us the best shot that we have to play football,” says Zandier. “I can’t speak on any other ACC programs, because I don’t know what they have going on, but I can tell you the University of Virginia is doing this the right way, and I’m confident and proud to be part of this.”
Viginia is scheduled to kickoff the season on September 19th against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.