PENDLETON — As part of the Great American Rivalry Series’ involvement with Friday’s Pendleton-Hermiston football game, alumni from both schools were inducted into the Series’ Hall of Fame.
For Pendleton, the Pendleton Linebacker’s Club as a whole was inducted in part for what they do to keep the tradition of Pendleton football alive as well as continuing to support the school and the program. And for Hermiston it was former Bulldog quarterback Jared Zabransky, who graduated in 2002 and went on to play football collegiately at Boise State and spent some brief time in the NFL and the Canadian Football League.
Both the Linebacker’s Club and Zabransky received commemorative trophies for the honor, presented to them at midfield during halftime of Friday night’s game. The East Oregonian caught up with Zabransky prior to the start of the second half and below are a few of the highlights.
EO: What do you remember from your high school days about the Pendleton-Hermiston rivalry?
JZ: “Pendleton beat us all three years I was on varsity. We missed a field goal my sophomore year that would’ve won the game for us, but the other two years they (Pendleton) had some really good guys, some big-time Division I linemen in Roy Scheuning and Sean Perkins and their running backs Stephen Bisnett and J.D. Lambert. I played defense in three games in high school and two of them were against Pendleton. I played safety and we’d line up and yell ‘They’re going to run the B gap, stuff the B gap!’ and sure enough Scheuning would just downblock and lay out our tackle, the linebackers would get blown up and I’m trying to tackle Bisnett and Lambert and get dragged 10 yards in the defensive backfield. Those were always exciting though. You prep for those games, your focus was 100 percent for those games first and foremost, and if you didn’t win that game it didn’t really matter what the rest of the season looked like.”
EO: What does it mean to you to be inducted into the Great American Rivalry Series’ Hall of Fame?
JZ: “Oh this is a pretty cool honor. I don’t quite know the history behind this precisely, but I know the history behind this rivalry and it’s a long-tenured and pretty heated, pretty ferocious rivalry. These guys have always been a good opponent for us Bulldogs. You get ready primarily to try to win a state title when you start out, but this is as big of a game as any for any sport. That’s almost 100 years of playing each other and that’s extremely unique. There’s not a lot of rivalries like that in America maybe, so it’s bittersweet to get this award on the last time these guys play each other but I’m pretty honored and humbled to receive it here.”
EO: After your football career ended, what did you get into?
JZ: “For the past 10 years my home base was in Houston, Texas, where I followed (my) pro football career for five years and then got into a career in the oil and gas industry. But I moved back to Boise in January and opened a real estate company called Zabransky & Clark Real Estate. I’m onto my third career and hopefully this one will stick for longer than five or six years.”
EO: What are your thoughts on this 2017 Hermiston team and how Friday’s game is playing out?
JZ: “I didn’t really know a lot about this team, but this is about twice as many kids as we had on the field when I was playing. But they’re playing well and the offense moved the ball well for the first quarter-plus. The running game is good, but I’d like to see a few more deep passes. You know as a quarterback I always like to see those explosive plays, but it’s been an entertaining game. I’m really impressed with Pendleton’s QB, too. The kid throws it well, he threw a swing pass right on the money and a good deep ball, people don’t realize how tough those throws are to make and he does it well and he’s impressed me.”
EO: Are you still involved with the sport of football at all?
JZ: I have a couple of clients in Boise that I do some skill development stuff, so I stay around the game. Also I color commentate for AM630 The Fan Game of the Week in Boise. I try to stay around it as much as possible.”
EO: Looking back on your athletic career, could you have dreamed of having the experiences you did coming from a small town in Eastern Oregon?
JZ: “When I was a little kid I dreamt of being a professional athlete. I told my mom when I was seven when she dropped me off at Mighty Mites (youth football) practice ‘Hey I’m going to play professional sports’ and she was like ‘oh that’s so nice.’ And as I started getting closer and closer to graduating high school it became fairly real that I was a pretty decent athlete and that I might get a shot at the next level, but you go from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond and you do that again and again from college to the pros and you can’t fear the challenge. You just have to go in and work as hard as you could. That was something that was never an issue, hard work was not something that was foreign to me and as long as a man applies that and puts his head down and is coachable they’ve got a shot. It’s not always about the fastest guy on the field or the strongest, a lot of the time it’s grit and determination that will succeed. I knew I had a chance, but to write that sort of a script and to finish off my college career the way that it did? No, I couldn’t have foreseen anything like that. It’s crazy how it all turned out like it did, kind of capped off my college career at the ESPY awards and winning those two awards and putting my college life to bed per se, it was so unique.”