From NAU to the NFL

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NAU Running Back Zach Bauman signs a contract with the Arizona Cardinals.

On May 10, 2014, Zach Bauman’s dream came true – Northern Arizona University’s record breaking running back signed a contract with the Arizona Cardinals to play professional football in the National Football League. For Bauman, this moment is the culmination of a lifetime of hard-work and dedication, and the journey that brought Bauman here is about as storybook as they come.

Against all odds

In 2009, Lumberjack football running back Zach Bauman came to Northern Arizona University with something to prove—that he could achieve anything through hard work and determination.

Throughout his entire life, Bauman has been underestimated. When he was younger, he was told that he could not play running back, and that he wasn’t fast or strong enough to succeed in football. Not highly recruited after high school himself, he watched his friends and teammates depart for the university football powerhouses.

“Even when I was younger, the coaches wouldn’t run plays for me, and focused on what they thought I couldn’t do,” Bauman says. “They said I was too undersized. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since I was eight years old from those experiences, and that helped me develop the work ethic to prove them wrong.”

Defined by greatness

And prove them wrong he did. Bauman concluded his Lumberjack football career with extraordinary statistical accomplishments: 5,132 career rushing yards, another 1,181 receiving yards, and 51 touchdowns. Bauman is the university’s all-time leading rusher, and was twice on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, an achievement bestowed on the best offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

“I knew that I had the ability,” Bauman explains. “I just had to work at it. I dreamed of one day breaking records, being a candidate for the Walter Payton Award, and being one of the best players at NAU. To actually have these things come true is incredible.”

Finally, on May 10, Bauman proved his doubters wrong again, and signed a free agent contract with the Cardinals. Their interest is the ultimate testament to how Bauman’s incredible work ethic and fierce determination have paid off.  Bauman has worked hard to reach this point, and credits the university with providing him the opportunity to exhibit what he is capable of achieving.

“So many other universities passed on me, and that motivates me every day and lets me know I still have something to prove,” Bauman says. “Northern Arizona University took a chance on me and put their faith in me, and I’m so grateful for that.”