Record breaker

Zack Bauman 225x150
NAU Football’s Zach Bauman finds success on and off the field.

Zach Bauman races down the field, football tucked under his arm. The senior running back picks up speed, gains distance, and then is tackled by the opposing defense. He gets back up.

Bauman is accustomed to being underestimated. When he was younger, he was told that he could not play running back, that he wasn’t fast or strong enough. Not highly recruited after high school himself, he watched his friends and teammates depart for the university football powerhouses. However, Bauman continued to work on his game and believe in himself, and it was not until later that he understood that things happened for a reason.

“Coming to Northern Arizona University was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Bauman says. “So many other schools passed on me, and that motivates me every day and lets me know I still have something to prove.”

Bauman has nothing left to prove to Lumberjack fans, however, who over the course of four seasons have watched him blur past opposing defenses to become the university’s all-time leader in rushing yards. Now, he has his eyes set on three goals: a degree in marketing that he is close to completing, a return to the playoffs, and the Walter Payton Award.

Working for greatness

Success for student-athletes involves a balance of work in the classroom and the gym. Bauman explains that when he’s not in class or studying, he is training and conditioning to be the best in the game.

The results have shown. On September 14, Bauman rushed 56 yards against University of California Davis, leaving him with 3,795 career rushing yards – and the university’s record. Now, he has the rest of the season to add to that impressive total, solidifying his place in Lumberjack history, and bolstering his team’s postseason hopes.

Furthermore, Bauman is on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, an achievement bestowed on the best offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, as voted on by the media. In 2012, he was a finalist, but came up short—this year, Bauman says, he is leaving everything on the field to win the award named after his favorite player.

“It would mean everything to me to win the Walter Payton award, because he has always been  a great role model for me,” Bauman says. “He is humble: he was one of the greatest college football players ever, and he will never talk about how good he was. I wore number 34 in honor of him. Now, I’m competing for an award named after him.”

Bauman has never lacked confidence in himself and his abilities. He explains that he is driven by his competitive nature, and does what it takes to win.

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

Superstar student-athlete

Bauman’s role on the Lumberjack team has helped him develop into the leader that he has been striving to be, and has enhanced his skills and confidence in the classroom, as well. However, Bauman knows he has to stay disciplined to maintain a balance between the field and the classroom, and that balance is very important to him. Bauman explains scholarships from donors have been a large contributor to his success – something he doesn’t take for granted.

“When you’re getting a scholarship, it means someone is taking a chance on you, and I don’t take that for granted,” Bauman says. “It’s a blessing for me to be a student-athlete at Northern Arizona University.”

Scholarships are often the difference between being worried about finances and being able to concentrate on what matters. As he continues to push forward toward the Walter Payton Award, he also looks forward to graduation and receiving the degree that he worked so hard for.

“Having an athletic scholarship gives me the time I need to focus on my schoolwork,” Bauman says. “I can devote one hundred percent of myself to my classes and to athletics.”