Zach Zenner
Zach Zenner in 2018
No. 34     
Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1991-09-13) September 13, 1991 (age 28)
Place of birth: Eagan, Minnesota
Career information
College: South Dakota State
Undrafted in 2015
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
* Detroit Lions ( 2015–present)
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
* Mickey Charles Award (2014)
Career NFL statistics as of 2018
Rushing yards     685
Rushing average     3.9
Rushing touchdowns     8
Receptions     27
Receiving yards     263
Receiving touchdowns     0
Stats at

Zachary Zenner (born September 13, 1991), also known as Big Z & Doc, is an American football running back for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at South Dakota State.

Early yearsEdit

Zenner attended Eagan High School in Eagan, Minnesota.[3] While at Eagan High School, he played for the football team. As a senior in 2009, he was a finalist for the Minnesota Mr. Football Award after posting an average of 8.9 yards per carry, along with 1,181 rushing yards, 122 receiving yards, and 17 total touchdowns. He earned All-Metro Honors, and Academic All-State on several teams. In addition, Zenner was a member of the state tournament qualifying Eagan baseball team in 2009. In 2010, Zenner led the team in batting average, posting a batting average of .537. He led the team in stolen bases as well.

College careerEdit

Zenner attended South Dakota State University from 2010 to 2014. South Dakota State was the only Division I program to offer Zenner a scholarship.[4] During this time, he was a member of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits football team, wearing the #31 jersey.[5] After his redshirt year, he began to take on his role with the team, including working on returning kicks, with positive growth and success. His 2012 campaign was a breakout year, highlighted in the first game against the Kansas Jayhawks with a 99-yard touchdown run.[6][7] Zenner rushed for at least 2,000 yards during each of the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons.[8][9][10][11]

Professional careerEdit

Coming out of college, many analysts had Zenner projected to be drafted in the fifth or sixth round. He was rated as the second best fullback in the draft by[12]

Pre-draft measureables
Ht Wt 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad BP Wonderlic
5 ft 11 in 223 lb 4.60 s 1.64 s 2.71 s 4.14 s 6.88 s 41 in 10 ft 1 in 25 rep 35

After Zenner went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Detroit Lions.[15][16] On May 2, 2015, the Detroit Lions signed him to a three-year, $1.58 million contract with a $5,000 signing bonus.[17]

Zenner entered training camp competing for the fourth running back on the Lions' depth chart with George Winn. Zenner ultimately won the position, leading the NFL in rushing yards during the preseason, and went into the regular season as the backup behind Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, and Ameer Abdullah.[18][19]

Zenner made his professional regular season debut in the Lions' season opener at the San Diego Chargers, finishing with two carries for six rushing yards.[20] On October 5, 2015, he carried the ball twice for nine yards and made his first career reception on a four-yard pass from Matt Stafford during a 10-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.[21] The following week, Zenner earned his first career start and had a season-high ten carries for 30 rushing yards against the Arizona Cardinals.[22] On October 18, 2015, Zenner had three rushing attempts for nine rushing yards during a 34-37 overtime victory over the Chicago Bears.[23][24] He left during the game after he suffered an apparent injury to his chest. It was later revealed he had suffered multiple fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.[25] On October 30, 2015, the Detroit Lions placed him on injured-reserve for the remainder of his rookie season.[26]

During the 2016 training camp, Zenner competed for the third backup running back position with rookie Dwayne Washington. He was named the fourth running back on the depth chart to begin the season, behind Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, and Dwayne Washington.[18] He was inactive for the first two games of the season but was activated for Week 3, after Abdullah suffered a fracture to his foot. During the Lions' Week 4 divisional matchup against the Chicago Bears, Zenner had three carries for 12 rushing yards and one 22-yard reception in the 14-17 loss.[27] On October 16, 2016, he earned his first start of the season and finished with a career-high 14 rushing attempts for 58 rushing yards and caught two passes for 14 receiving yards during a 31-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.[28] The following week, he ran for 29 rushing yards on nine carries and scored his first career touchdown on a one-yard run in the third quarter of a 20-17 win against the Washington Redskins.[29] On December 26, 2016, in a Monday Night Football game, Zenner had 12 carries for 67 rushing yards and a career-high two rushing touchdowns in the first half of the Lions' 21-42 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.[30] Although he found success in the first half, he did not receive any carries for the rest of the game.[23] He was the only running back to carry the ball for the Lions in the next two games, scoring a touchdown in a home game against the Packers to end the regular season.[31]

In a limited role during the 2017 season, Zenner had 14 carries for 26 yards and a rushing touchdown.[32] On March 16, 2018, Zenner re-signed with the Lions.[33] He was placed on injured reserve on September 1,[34] and was then released on September 12 before getting re-signed by the Lions on November 6.[35] During the 2018 season, he finished with 265 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on 55 carries in eights games, including one start.[36]

On March 12, 2019, Zenner signed a one-year contract extension with the Lions.[37]

In the movie Overboard (2018 film) starring Anna Faris there is a scene where the Seahawks are playing against the Detroit Lions on a Television. This monitor is shown just as Zach Zenner takes a swing pass and runs left.

Personal lifeEdit

Zenner married in 2016. Zenner is a Christian. Zenner and his wife have a son.[38] After scoring 30 on the MCAT, he was admitted the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, but deferred entry to play in the NFL. While on injured reserve in 2016, Zenner researched the effects of fructose on hypertension at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.[39] After the 2018 preseason, Zenner was placed on injured reserve. During the time away from the Detroit Lions Zenner continued a two-year effort of working to find a way to keep children alive from the rare debilitating genetic disorder, Batten disease.[40]


  1. "Capital One Academic All-America® D1 Football Team Selected" (Press release). College Sports Information Directors of America. December 4, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  2. "Top college athletes to be honored by NCAA" (Press release). NCAA. November 12, 2015. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  3. "Takasaki: Off the football field, Zach Zenner likes to fish and help people". Argus Leader.
  4. Pasche, Paula (May 10, 2015). "Detroit Lions — Zach Zenner runs without a chip on his shoulder". The Oakland Press. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  5. "Zach Zenner NCAA FB Stats".
  6. Alter, Marlowe (May 7, 2015). "Film review: Zenner could be undrafted steal for Lions". Detroit Free Press.
  7. "South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs. Kansas Jayhawks - Box Score - September 1, 2012".
  8. Rogers, Justin (May 7, 2015). "RB Zach Zenner has the makings of Detroit Lions' next undrafted fan favorite". M Live Media Group.
  9. "Zach Zenner 2012 NCAA FB Game Log".
  10. "Zach Zenner 2013 NCAA FB Game Log".
  11. "Zach Zenner 2014 NCAA FB Game Log".
  12. "Zach Zenner, DS #2 FB, South Dakota State: 2015 NFL Draft".
  13. "2015 NFL Draft Profile: Zach Zenner".
  14. "Zach Zenner - South Dakota State, FB : 2015 NFL Draft Scout Player Profile".
  15. Zimmer, Matt (July 21, 2015). "Zach Zenner getting adjusted to life in the NFL". Argus Leader.
  16. "NDSU And SDSU Standouts Getting A Shot In The NFL [VIDEO"]. CBS Detroit. May 4, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  17. " Zach Zenner contract".
  18. 18.0 18.1 " Detroit Lion's Depth Chart".
  19. "2015 Detroit Lions Statistics & Players".
  20. "Detroit Lions at San Diego Chargers - September 13th, 2015".
  21. "Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks - October 5th, 2015".
  22. "Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions - October 11th, 2015".
  23. 23.0 23.1 "NFL Player Profile: Zach Zenner".
  24. "Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions - October 18th, 2015".
  25. Meinke, Kyle (October 19, 2015). "Lion's Zach Zenner out for season; hospitalized with collapsed lung; cracked ribs".
  26. Rothstein, Michael (October 21, 2015). "Zach Zenner recovering from injuries at home after going on Lion's IR".
  27. "Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears - October 2nd, 2016".
  28. "Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions - October 16th, 2016".
  29. "Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions - October 23rd, 2016".
  30. "Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys - December 26th, 2016".
  31. "Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions - January 1st, 2017".
  32. "Zach Zenner 2017 Game Log".
  33. "Lions re-sign Zach Zenner". March 16, 2018.
  34. "Lions establish 53-man roster". September 1, 2018.
  35. "Lions sign free agents WR Bruce Ellington and RB Zach Zenner". November 6, 2018.
  36. "Zach Zenner 2018 Game Log" (in en).
  37. "Lions re-sign RB Zach Zenner to one-year contract extension". Detroit Lions. March 12, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  38. Demara, Max (February 20, 2018). "Lions Zach Zenner reveals he's become a father". 247sports. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  39. Katzenstein, Josh (May 25, 2016). "Lions running back Zenner hits lab to prep for medical career". The Detroit News. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  40. Rothstein, Michael (August 29, 2018). "Lions' Zach Zenner working to cure rare disease, save kids' lives". ESPN. Retrieved September 2, 2018.

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