COLUMBIA — Zach Zenner was once a boy in the third grade just starting to play football.
"Those participation trophies were never his thing," said his father, Paul Zenner, who coached his oldest son's team in those early years with the game.
Some things, most things, never change with Zach Zenner, those close to him say. Indeed, South Dakota State's star running back didn't come to Columbia this weekend to participate. Sure, his FCS squad was, essentially, paid ($350,000, to be exact) by Missouri to be the Tigers' season-opening victims at Faurot Field Saturday.
"Mizzou won the victory. I think that's the assumption of what was gonna happen," Jackrabbits coach John Stiegelmeier said after his team's 38-18 loss. "But that's not why we came down here."
That's not why Zenner, a two-time All-American with back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons, came here.
While his team walked down Memorial Stadium's south end in a line before kickoff, some were letting out battle-like cries. Some were laughing. Not him. He was as he was some 45 minutes prior, when he stepped off the field after a brief warm-up session and quietly made his way back to the locker room, sipping an orange Gatorade. Unfazed.
When it came time to play, when it came time to answer Missouri's easy opening scoring drive, he was ready. The Jackrabbits' first snap slipped off their quarterback's jittery hands, but Zenner secured it, and he tore 75 yards untouched downfield.
His description of the play: "I was able to hit the hole I was supposed to hit."
He carried no particular thrill into this game.
"He gets quiet about the games and competition stuff," said his father. "It's one play at a time for him, so he doesn't want to talk about that stuff to anybody. He keeps it all inside."
That it was aired on national television? That it was his first chance in his career against one representative of the Southeastern Conference?
Didn't he look forward to any of this?
"Not more than any other game," he said.
"I don't know what Zach looks forward to," Stiegelmeier said. "Zach is even-keel, humble. He looks forward to working hard."
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.