Zac Sandvig Article - DMR's Male Athlete of the Year
Ames, Ia. — Zac Sandvig's vision of himself as the next Troy Aikman fizzled the first day of freshman football practice.
Sandvig instead made the best of what the coaches offered him — a chance to play for West Des Moines Valley and the opportunity to develop into one of the state's best running backs.
"The coaches told me they were going to move me to running back," Sandvig said. "They said, 'We need to get you on the field; you can't be on the sidelines, you're too fast.' "
Speed and destiny won out. Sandvig became an elite all-state running back his senior year as well as a record-smashing sprinter during track season. He's also been named The Des Moines Register's male high school athlete of the year.
Sandvig participated in two sports at a high level. In football, he rushed for more than 1,500 yards and led Valley to the Class 4-A state title. In track, Sandvig was a member of Valley's record-setting sprint crew.
He grew up wanting to fulfill an NFL dream. Sandvig imagined himself playing with the Dallas Cowboys. His biggest asset was speed, from the time he outraced schoolmates sideline to sideline during recess at Crestview Elementary.
"I was always a little guy," said Sandvig, who is now 5-foot-10and 180 pounds and playing football at Iowa State, "but I could run away from everybody."
Sandvig first drew attention on the varsity football field as a Valley sophomore. Elite all-state running back Jason Scales sprained an ankle. Backup Sandvig replaced him and rushed for nearly 300 yards in two playoff games.
Valley went on to win the Class 4-A state title.
As a junior, Sandvig rushed for 1,600 yards and led Valley to a runner-up finish.
Valley went 13-0 last fall. Sandvig rushed for 153 yards in the championship on 39 carries.
"The whole game was about him, he carried us," Valley kicker Ryan Beer said. "He was a good leader. He was always inspiring others to work hard."
Track season proved to be thrilling, too. Sandvig joined teammates Bryan Collins, Ryan Keairnes and Brandon McSkimming in setting 4x400-meter relay records in the Drake Relays and state track meets. The Tigers also made a splash on the national track scene.
Valley trimmed a fraction of a second off the 1981 Drake meet record. Sandvig enjoyed running with the stars at the Relays.
"You're standing next to Jeremy Wariner and he's an Olympic gold medalist," Sandvig said.
The Valley quartet ran an all-time state 4x400 best in a state meet preliminary. Their time of 3 minutes 13.80 seconds beat the 1970 Indianola record of 3:16.60.
"All eyes were on us," Sandvig said.
The next step was Nike nationals in North Carolina. The Valley foursome took third in the 4x100, surprising competitors from Texas and California.
Sandvig is the first male athlete of the year to attend Iowa State since 1989, when Darwin Vande Hoef of Rock Valley won before becoming a Cyclone.
The NFL dream he had as a kid still remains.
"I want to take my career as far as it will go," he said.
Six previous male athletes of the year have reached the NFL: Nate Kaeding, Aaron Kampman, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tim Dwight, Tavian Banks and Marv Cook.
As in his high school career, Sandvig finds himself in good company.