By: Marc Narducci
VILLANOVA, PA – Garrett Zobel was a standout in high school in the Philadelphia Catholic League for La Salle, but like many high school stars, he still had to earn his stripes at the next level while competing for Villanova.
In these days of players looking for instant gratification, Zobel, a junior defensive lineman, worked his way up for playing time, the way many former high school standouts have to do.
An All-State defensive lineman as a senior at La Salle, he earned playing time in three games as a true freshman for Villanova in 2018.
That’s not always easy, going from hotshot high school player to deep reserve, but the now 6-foot-2, 290-pound Zobel, loved the grind, realizing nothing would be handed to him.
In 2019 he played in all 13 games for a Villanova team that would earn an FCS playoff berth. While there was no fall season last year due to the pandemic, Villanova played four games in the spring and Zobel started all four, making 11 tackles, but also clogging up running lanes, so teammates could make the tackle. Due to an NCAA rule that didn’t count last season on a player’s eligibility, Zobel is still considered a junior.
Junior defensive lineman, Garrett Zobel, has earned a starting spot on Villanova's defensive line - PSD Photo by James Williamson
Last spring was an affirmation of all the hard work that Zobel did to earn a starting berth.
“It was definitely a privilege,” he said about earning a starting spot. “The year before I was a backup and had significant reps on the field, and to come out and play with guys like Malik Fisher and Forrest Rhyne, people that you look up to and respect, I’ve been grateful and look forward to continue doing that this year.”
Fisher is a graduate student defensive lineman, and Rhyne is a graduate student linebacker. Both players were recently named preseason third-team All-Americans from STATS Perform.
Villanova University's head football coach, Mark Ferrante, said Zobel is a player his team can emulate both on the field and academically - PSD Photo by James Williamson
Since he earned a starting spot, Zobel didn’t become complacent. If one could imagine, his work ethic went up another level.
“He has a high motor and he hustles all the time,” Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said. “He’s a great example for everybody watching him.”
That example extends well beyond the field. Zobel has made the Athletic Director’s honor roll six times and the Colonial Athletic Association’s Commissioner Academic honor roll six times as well.
He is a finance and real estate double major in the school of business. The fall will be his final undergraduate semester. He then plans to enroll in graduate school in the spring.
“He is really a good guy for our young guys to emulate,” Ferrante said. “If our guys look at him and see what he does academically and what he does for us on the field and the weight room, he is just a great leader and a super hard worker and we are really pleased with Garrett’s progress so far.”
There is no secret to his success as a student.
“You have to be on top of your school work,, not letting things go to the last minute,” he said. “It’s really what it takes to be a good student here and honestly, if you show up every day of class and you put in the work, you will get the results.”
He said attending La Salle prepared him both academically and athletically for Villanova.
“It was great, another family-like atmosphere, just like here,” Zobel said. “Coach John Steinmetz, he’s still the head coach there (at La Salle) and he was just a mentor to me, really taught me not to just be a great football player but how to be a great man both on and off the field. I owe a lot to him.”
Zobel has enjoyed a passion for football since he began playing the sport as a seven-year-old. He also began wrestling at the same time and eventually became a two-time state medalist at La Salle. He said there were potential college offers for wrestling, but football won out.
After he was a first-team All-Philadelphia Catholic League selection as an offensive and defensive lineman, Zobel gravitated to the defensive side of the ball at Villanova.
“When I was young I just liked to tackle,” Zobel said laughing. “The aggressiveness about defensive line was what brought me to the position.”
He has continued his aggressive approach, both in his preparation and his play, earning a prominent role on a perennial FCS playoff contender.
Looking ahead: Villanova will open its season on the road against Lehigh on Saturday (9/4) at Noon.