Aug. 13, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Tony Zenon is trying not to get ahead of himself as the 2014 season, his last one with Georgia Tech, approaches.
The senior from Albany, Ga., and Deerfield Windsor Academy is savoring every day, and, as the cliché goes, taking things one play at a time.
In fact, “one play at a time” has become a mantra of sorts for Zenon in his goal of making it onto the field as starting A-back once the season gets underway.
It’s part of a simple plan derived from simple homegrown wisdom.
“Starting the spring, I had a talk with my pops. He just told me to try and go out there and make a play every day,” he said. “You make a play every day they won’t forget about you. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I don’t have to think about too much because I’ve been here long enough to know all the plays. So just trying to improve on catching the ball, blocking, and everything and just going out there and having fun.”
Through the first two weeks of fall practice, Zenon has made a big play just about every day.
Aug. 4, No. 5 – Zenon and sophomore QB Justin Thomas hook up on a pair of long receptions.
Aug. 5, Practice No. 6 – Zenon and Thomas again connect for a long play.
Aug. 6, Practice No. 7 – In the morning session on the first day of two-a-days, Zenon converts in the third-and-long drill with a run on the perimeter, the offense’s third straight successful third-down completion.
Aug. 7, Practice No. 9 – On the hottest day of the year (temperatures reaching 95 degrees), Zenon stays hot, getting deep and catching yet another long pass.
Aug. 9: In team’s first scrimmage, Zenon and QB Tim Byerly combine on a 15-yard slant to gain a first down on third and nine.
Zenon’s not over-analyzing.
“I’m just enjoying camp. I’m having a good camp and I feel like the team is jelling and everything’s going smoothly,” he said. “So it can’t get any better than that.”
Zenon seems to be, though.
“He’s playing fast and he’s had a really good camp,” said head coach Paul Johnson following Monday’s practice. “I think he’s always tried hard. I’ve never had a problem with his effort. I think things have just kind of come together a little bit. Hopefully he can keep it going.”
Zenon is thriving while in the heat of the intense but good-natured competition at A-back, a position loaded with experienced talent that includes fellow seniors B.J. Bostic, Deon Hill, and Synjyn Days and junior Broderick Snoddy.
“Having people at A-back that are experienced is great,” he said. “All of us know what we’re doing. So it makes it competitive because every day we’re fighting for that spot. But it’s fun.
“We all grew up together, we all came in together,” he added. “We’re all competing out there but at the end of the day we’re still friends and we’re still cool. We just want to go out there and have fun. That’s the main thing.”
Zenon would like to be the main option in 2014, or at least more of a weapon than he was in 2013, when, in 11 games (one start), he carried 14 times for 35 yards, and made one six-yard reception.
Johnson believes Zenon’s knowledge of the offense will allow him to play more on instinct, which could lead to playing more.
“He’s got the offense down. Now he can use his quickness and speed,” said Johnson. “No matter what you do, if you understand what you’re doing you can go faster. That’s what he’s able to do. I don’t think he has to think now. We were talking about guys who make quick decisions and he’s gotten to the point now where he can make some quick decisions.”
His teammates like what they’ve seen from him.
“I’m glad I don’t have to tackle him,” said senior guard Shaq Mason, with a laugh. “He would make me look silly. Tony and Justin probably have the most shiftiness on the team. If Tony gets the ball with an alley or even a little lane, he’s going to make anybody miss. Every team needs that one guy that can just break loose and make guys miss.”
“That’s my boy and I always admire his work ethic,” said Hill of Zenon, his first roommate at Tech. “He pushes me to work harder. He’s a very hard worker. He’s going to get a job done so I’ve got to step up my level of competition. We still hang out, take our dogs to the park. So we’re still tight. We both know it s a competition and we’re both going to push each other.”
Zenon, who at 5-8, 174-pounds, is the smallest of the A-Backs, hopes to push the tempo and impact the offense in a manner similar to the way Robert Godhigh did last season, when he was named Honorable Mention All-ACC, and was a big-play machine (16 plays over 20 yards), despite his rather diminutive stature (listed at 5-7, 190)
Zenon won’t put the pressure of replacing Godhigh on himself, but plans to use his blazing speed and experience within Johnson’s offense to put that kind of pressure on opposing defenses.
“I’m going to play within myself and I feel like I have the ability to make plays and do those things,” he said. “Hopefully I can be that guy. I’m just striving every day to make a play. Hopefully I’ll continue doing so throughout the season.”
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