From the Tennis Court to the Gridiron: Zach Targoff’s Unusual Path to College Football

Now that he was accepted and knew where he wanted to go, he turned his attention back to getting on the team. In the months that had passed, the Bears has undergone a coaching change.

“When I got into Brown, I went back to Marcus and at that time he connected me with Coach Perry,” Targoff said. “I took the train up in March and met with Coach Perry, and joined the team as a walk-on. When I got to campus in the fall, not many people knew I was a walk-on.”

Not having played fully organized football carried quite a few unexpected challenges at first.

“Learning the playbook was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” Targoff said. “In those two games (with the 21U Lions), the quarterback would get in the huddle and tell us, ‘You do this, and you do that.’ It was harder than any test I ever had to study for. I never experienced true coaches screaming at you, but by the end of camp it all started clicking.”

Targoff started out on the scout team as a freshman in 2019 and has played his way into ever-increasing roles since. He appeared in one game as a freshman before grueling his way through the pandemic-canceled 2020 season. As a junior last season, he appeared in all 10 games, catching 13 passes for 152 yards, which included two receptions for 40 yards in the season opener against URI. Two weeks later, he scored his first career touchdown as part of a 29-point fourth quarter at Bryant.

“I had a lot of fun playing scout my freshman year,” Targoff said. “I didn’t know if it would work out, but I knew I didn’t want to play tennis because that is a grind. It gets lonely out there and it is a mental war. I also wanted to hit people.”

Spring ball in 2021 offered a chance to step up along with his fellow receivers, as the group managed their own subs and was a little more responsible for themselves at practice due to a positional coach transition. Targoff cites his fellow wideouts Hayes Sutton, Wes Rockett, Allan Houston III and Graham Walker, as being a very close group that has helped each other develop the last three-plus years.

“I was here day one with them,” he said. “I would say we’re very tight. They are all great guys and it’s a really tight knit group. I think especially with the receiver coach switch, it forced us to be leaders and control ourselves. It’s been a long journey and we’ve been through it all together.”

With an unconventional leadup to becoming a student-athlete at Brown, and an unexpected season cancellation due to COVID in 2020, Targoff has one big thing on his mind with his senior season now well underway.

“I’m playing and I just want to win.”

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