Zach Boren Begins His Own Version of the Chase

By Kyle Rowland on May 8, 2013 at 9:30a
The fullbacker, Zach Boren begins his own chase

Tryouts have never been an issue for Zach Boren. The son of one of Michigan’s all-time great defensive players and the younger brother of a Wolverine-turned-Buckeye, stardom has followed Boren throughout his football career.

At Pickerington, he was the defensive player of the year in the state, drawing scholarship offers from some of the best college programs in the country. Boren then became a starter on Day 1 at Ohio State. His four-year career included three and a half seasons at fullback with the final six games coming as the starting middle linebacker.

But now he’s in the unfamiliar territory of fighting for a job on the football field. Undrafted in last month’s NFL Draft, Boren signed as a free agent with the Houston Texans.

“It’s hard. It’s a grind 24/7,” he said. “When I first came (to Ohio State), it was one of those things where you’re a freshman and you want to show the older guys what you can do. You have to take that same attitude into making an NFL roster. You have to show up early, stay late and put in as much time as possible to learn the new system, and out on the field you need to be first in line and first to finish. You have to go 110 percent at all times.”

That likely won’t be an issue for Boren, an outsized personality that knows a hard day’s work. When he arrived at Ohio State, some thought he was given a favor because his brother, Justin, transferred to the Buckeyes from Michigan. That doubt drove Boren to push harder than his peers and to play with a chip on his shoulder. It’s a quality that still permeates from the former captain.

Boren’s father, Mike, who currently ranks sixth all-time in tackles at Michigan, instilled that toughness in he and his brothers, which includes current Buckeye, Jacoby. Boren has proven he belongs before, he must do so again if he wants his first NFL paycheck.

“I always play with a chip on my shoulder and that gives me the personality I play with on the field.”

“Going undrafted, people don’t believe in you,” Boren said. “You have to go in and fight. It’s nothing I’m not used to. It’s the way I always play. I always play with a chip on my shoulder and that gives me the personality I play with on the field.”

Hearing your name announced on the stage at Radio City Music Hall is the dream of all draft eligible players. But as the seventh round was nearing an end, Boren actually found himself in a position where he was siding against a lifelong vision.

Prior to the draft, Boren and his agent, Mike McCartney, conducted a hastily organized research project of all 32 teams roster. They came to the conclusion that five offered better opportunities than the discarded 27 franchises. Above all, though, one team stuck out: the Houston Texans.

“We knew Houston was the best fit,” Boren said. When they didn’t draft a fullback and they needed one, they contacted my agent. We knew that was the right fit. I kind of agreed to the deal in the seventh round, before the draft even ended. They were in contact with my agent the whole time. It was a gentlemen’s agreement.”

The Texans have two fullbacks on their roster, nine-year pro Greg Jones and special teamer Tyler Clutts. Jones signed with Houston in March after spending his entire career in Jacksonville. He opened up holes for running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew with the Jaguars, contributing to five 1,000-yard seasons and 37 100-yard rushing games. Jones is now responsible for clearing room for the reigning NFL rushing touchdown champion Arian Foster, who found paydirt 17 times last season.

Versatility and, in particular, the six games Boren spent at linebacker in 2012 could be his best friend in rookie minicamp and beyond. A selfless attitude should also be an asset. Boren has made it clear that he’s eager to make a roster and make an impact from that point on.

“I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” he said. “Being versatile in college will help me on special teams, tackling in the open field. Every young guy plays special teams in the NFL. I’m excited. I know they need a bruiser fullback, so I’m excited about that. If they want me to play linebacker, I’ll do that too.”

It’s clear, however, that offense is Boren’s most desired landing spot. He, like Jones, is keen on blocking for Foster.

“It would a lot of fun,” Boren said. “A great running back like that – the best in the league – he’s going to make his fullback look a lot better. I’m excited to have him behind me. We’ll see how that goes.”

From the outset, setting the tempo is a goal for Boren, whether it’s on the field are in the locker room. He’s a natural born leader, and just because he’s the low man on the totem pole doesn’t mean he’ll fade to the background.

If anything, Boren wants to make sure coaches notice him, not be the forgotten man in the fog of NFL training camp. After a career spent being an emotional leader, though, he knows it won’t be the same at the next level.

“It’s your time to go to work and shine.”

“I think that’ll be a hard thing, just trying to find your place,” Boren said. “I know I’m going to be myself. I’m always a vocal guy, screaming and yelling on the field. I’ve always been a leader. I was like that when I got to Ohio State as a freshman. I’m going to keep that attitude because that’s just the way I am. Hopefully it goes well. You have to learn your place with the veterans in the NFL.”

It’s not often that Boren is out of his comfort zone. He grew up in Central Ohio and before venturing a few miles from home to attend Ohio State. Now he’s heading halfway across the country to a new frontier.

He’ll have the former Buckeyes with him every step of the way, though. DeVier Posey is already on the Texans, and rookies Travis Howard and Orhian Johnson also signed undrafted free agent deals. Boren hasn’t even met head coach Gary Kubiak yet. The only coach on the staff he’s spoken to is running backs coach Chick Harris. It all gives Boren a sense of anxiety.

“I’m excited but nervous at the same time,” he said. “I’ve been (at Ohio State) for four years. Coming to the facility I know everyone and you know what to expect. It’s like being at home.

“Going to a new organization, it’s nerve wracking at first because you don’t know what to expect. It’s a whole new building and you have to learn who everyone is. But at the same time it’s exciting. It’s a new challenge to face.”

But Boren will keep the same hard-nosed attitude.

“It’s your time to go to work and shine,” he said. “When you get on a field, no matter what, you have to prove yourself. When people doubt you, it just adds extra motivation. You go a little harder and play a little nastier.”


Comments Show All Comments

BuckeyeMike2002's picture

Zach Boren did a great job in 2012. His toughness and willingness to sacrifice for the team was such a positive for the 2012 edition. Best of luck in finding that roster spot young man.

Q: What is the difference between the Michigan Football Team and a bag of crap. A: The Bag.

Boxley's picture

I wish him well, attitude and determination can go a long ways in getting the job you want.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Curt Heinrichs's picture

Zach is the perfect example of why I'm a bigger fan of college football than the NFL (also contributing to that is the fact that I'm a Browns fan. At least I get to typically see one of my teams win on a given weekend). Guys like Zach Boren may not have the fastest 40 time, the most bench press reps, or the freak size, but his heart and determination helped to make him a star on the football field. 
Zach seems like one of those guys that loves to play football and even mentioned in the article that he's excited to play special teams if that's what it takes. 
Switching positions midway through his senior year showed me that Boren is a team player and that kind of attitude seems rare for a player in the NFL, where you hear stories every year about guys holding out for more money, getting in trouble with the law, snubbing charities, blowing up at teammates or coaches on the sidelines. I have a feeling you won't see Zach Boren's name attached to any stories like that. 
As with all former Buckeyes looking to catch on with an NFL team, I'll cheer for Zach, but I especially hope that he catches on because he seems like a guy with great character, which is something the average fan can relate to and appreciate. 

jthiel09's picture

Couldn't have said it better myself.


causeicouldntgo43's picture

Zach Boren typifies what Ohio State football is all about, and he will succeed at whatever he sets his mind to. Thanks for leaving us with the Devin Gardner slobber-knocker GIF from your last (and 12-0 winning) game as a Buckeye............

AllDay028's picture

A great running back like that – the best in the league

Zach, I thought you signed with the Texans, not the Vikings?

bodast67's picture

As a Fullback and part-time LB, Boren should at least cement a spot on the special teams if he doesn't get the starting FB spot. He has a great attitude and knows that nobody owes him anything and he will have to earn the spot and the respect of his teamates all over again.
 Good luck to the young man. 




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

tdible2132's picture

Best of luck to Zach, he's a great kid and would be a great addition to an NFL locker room. I think he definitely has the potential to make an NFL roster at fullback.

45has2's picture

Many thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Boren.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

hail2victors9's picture

I wish him the best.  It's a shame for Michigan what happened with Lloyd leaving and RichRod entering.  Really would've liked to see that Boren legacy finish up where it started.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

Hovenaut's picture

However things shake out for him in the pros, he sure made his mark at Ohio State.

Some of the better football players are without flash, yet just get things done. The game could use more players like Zach Boren.

Buckeye06's picture

Growing up in Houston I'm a Texans fan through and through and hope that all the Buckeyes succeed
Eat some good Tex-Mex when you're down there Zach

Squirrel Master's picture

So my chiefs draft a FB in the 6th round and then trade a rarely used nickelback for Arizona's fullback. I just wished they would have drafted Boren and ended it. Now my team has 2 fullbacks and supposedly Andy Reid likes using fullbacks (I find that hard to believe when I know he rarely likes to use his running back and throws all the time), so it would have been nice to have Boren on the team.
Now I get to go another year without a buckeye on my Chiefs. Donald Washington is still listed as on KC's roster but I would be surprised if he is still there by season's beginning. At the most a practice squad player. Shame.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

I think Zach's drive gives him a big advantage to make it on a team.  I like his chances.  He's a hard worker.  Good Luck Zach!  Buckeye nation thanks you for all your time in Columbus!  Hope you find a home in the Pros.
Go Bucks!