By Jeremy McDonald
KEIZER, Ore.– There was a rain/snow mix Sunday in Keizer as the afternoon arrived at McNary High School for the Island Boy Camp’s practice for their squads. From the fifth/sixth-grade teams to the Varsity squad, they wrapped up practice in the cold, blustery conditions.
For West Albany’s TJ Zimmermann, he was lining up at Cornerback and was giving looks to the IBC’s ’99 Problemz’ receivers and doing the same lining up in the slot when the IBC’s ‘GymClub’ Varsity squad goes on offense.
“It’s just good, these guys are looking up to you and they’re just trying to do all the right things to get better,” said Zimmermann. “Like I was telling Cole (Schaffner) earlier, all they’re doing…wtf IBC is doing, they’re doing a lot more work than I did at their age so they’re getting set up for success.
“It’s just fun to be out there with them. Mess around with them. I mean we started off serious and then it got goofy at the end, but it was good.”
Schaffner, a Senior receiver and defensive back, came out to practice and joined his Bulldog teammate for some extra reps entering what hopes to be their final season together at West Albany High School this Spring.
“I asked (TJ) if I could come out here and play and the coach said yeah. I told the coach thanks for giving me the opportunity to play, I had fun today. Got to compete and everything, so it was fun,” Schaffner said.
IBC was coming off several 7-on-7 games the day before up in Milwaukie at La Salle Prep as they went back to work Sunday morning. Preparing for games in Las Vegas in February.
For Zimmermann, a first-team defensive lineman in the Mid-Willamette Conference and first-team MWC and second-team All-State for basketball, being able to improve on his craft as an offensive threat was something awesome. Built like Thor, Zimmermann’s size presented issues against defenses that drew bodies over to him during the Fall Oregon 7’s league and in the few scrimmages that they have this Winter.
“That’s everything. That’s huge. All we’re waiting for is that chance to go and you can’t just sit around because dudes are getting better,” said Zimmermann. “What Fui (Alex Fuianomo) has set up, being able to get out here and get on routes. Work on, not much the tackling and defensive line stuff…but to come out here and better yourself through routes, footwork, catching and just get ready for that season.
“It’s been awesome.”
Zimmermann grew up around the West Albany program. He was on the sidelines growing up watching the program. Since their drop from 6A back to 5A, the Bulldogs have reached the State Semi-Finals Round. Dropping tough battles with Wilsonville and Crater both his Sophomore and Junior years.
Last year’s 30-24 defeat to the Comets hurt. Knowing how talented that team was going 11-1 with that only loss coming on that cold November night at Autzen Stadium.
“It was, we had a group of guys who we’ve been mixing in and playing with since Pop Warner. We really felt like we had a squad that could’ve won it all last year and everything had been going right,” said Zimmermann. “It was hard, especially losing by one touchdown right there at the end. That last little interception when we had a good drive going, it was tough.”
But here he was, putting in work in what is promised is one last run at donning the West Albany uniform. Living, striving for that competition and to live up to the standards set of the program in Albany.
“It’s awesome. I grew up watching those (Randy) Nyquist teams and I was over on the sidelines some games doing ball boy,” said Zimmermann. “It’s pretty awesome to come into a program that’s traditionally been so good and to come in and keep the strength of that program going. It’s fun.
“The reason why I even started athletics is because of the competition. It’s fun, especially starting to go around against guys you know and played against. And now we’re getting things like playing against McNary in the first game. So, it’s everything to compete and just work your butt off.”