A football team is often described as a family, but the Zidek family could just about field its own football team.
Zack Zidek celebrated his final game with Elyria Catholic on Friday. It was the fourth such celebration for a family that watched its third generation football player cap his career.
Zack’s grandfather, Ron, earned four varsity letters at EC from 1959-62. His father, Rob, won two state championships during his time as a Panther from 1982-85 and his uncle Rick played from 1986-89.
“Just watching them instilled a tremendous pride in myself to see them wear the green and white,” Ron said. “It’s just makes me very proud.”
Ron played tight end, wide receiver and a number of positions on defense during his career with the Panthers. While he admits the game has gotten faster with spread offenses and more passing, the basic fundamentals remain the same.
“It’s being part of a team, being part of the whole picture,” Ron said. “There’s sometimes emphasis on individuals, but it’s the team effort that wins the ballgame. And being part of the team whether you’re on the field 100 percent of the time or not.”
Rob played nose tackle and didn’t become a starter until his senior season, but his best memories came during his sophomore and junior seasons when the Panthers won 26 straight games and back-to-back state championships.
He remembers throwing a critical block on a punt return that sprung Panthers star running back Al McKinney for a touchdown during the 1984 championship game, a 45-20 win over Cincinnati McNicholas.
“We were always taught to do whatever you had to do for the team,” said Rob, who went on to play one year of Division III football at Wittenberg University.
“Elyria Catholic football is bigger than you. It’s being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. You may not be the superstar, but you do your role and help the team accomplish and reach its full potential.”
Rick was a two-year starter who played defensive back and special teams.
He was elected captain his senior year, but his season abruptly in the third game when he broke his femur.
Rick and his brother were introduced to the Elyria Catholic football family very early.
Ron worked the sidelines on the chain gang or helped out with press box duties during games and always brought the boys with him.
Ron’s been involved with the Elyria Catholic Dads’ Booster Club for 50 years. Rob is president of the Elyria Catholic Quarterback Club.
“You learn a lot as far as discipline and really working as a team,” Rick said. “When you learn to work as a team, that’s something that sticks with you throughout your career and sticks with you throughout your adult life as well.”
Zack played wide receiver and started his senior year after playing as a backup and rotational player his sophomore and junior years.
He made his first varsity catch against Clearview during his sophomore year. He got in toward the end when Elyria Catholic had a big lead. He said the coach looked at him and winked and the team called a slant route for him.
“It was very exciting,” Zack said. “After you make it all the jitters and excitement are gone. It’s just expected.”
Zack credits his family for keeping him focused during the rough practices and losses.
He won’t make a trip to the playoffs as the Panthers finished 6-4, just shy of a berth for the second straight season.
While he said that will stick with him for awhile, he knows he won’t have to carry it alone.
“I’ve seen what my family has done and they’ve gone through the same things that I’ve gone through,” Zack said. “They’re just there to keep me going.”