Zack Abron can’t fathom how far his legs have carried him in his football career, but it’s not for lack of trying.
Abron, Missouri’s senior tailback, sometimes sits and thinks about how many rushing yards he must have racked up since he started playing football in sixth grade. He hasn’t come up with a number, but he has narrowed it somewhat.
“I was just thinking, all the way back, from the day I put on pads,” Abron said. “So I’m just thinking about how much time these wheels have put in, how many yards they’ve traveled.”
He figures it has to be more than 10,000. That doesn’t include PlayStation yards.
To make his way into the Missouri record book, Abron needs 754 more. That would give him 3,027 and make him the Tigers’ leading career rusher, passing Brock Olivo.
Abron also is moving up Missouri’s scoring and touchdowns lists. He is second on the touchdown list with 33, needing five more to tie former quarterback Corby Jones. On the scoring list, his 198 points are good for fifth, 30 behind Jones, who is first.
“I know about the records,” Abron said. “I know I’m close, but really it’s just me working and doing what I can for the team. If I get that done, everything else will just come into place.”
There’s only one problem. In doing what is best for the team, Abron has been getting too many receiving yards. With 12 catches for 90 yards, mostly on screen passes in the flat, he has surpassed his totals for receptions (eight) and receiving yards (56) in his first three years combined.
“They’re just throwing it out there to me,” Abron said. “They got it to me a few times last year on screens, but when we ran screens, it was (receiver Justin) Gage screens last year.”
Coach Gary Pinkel gave a clear-cut reason the Tigers’ didn’t throw Abron many passes in recent years.
“When we got here, his hands, they were bad. And I’m being nice,” Pinkel said. “But he’s worked hard, and he’s just doing a great job.”
Abron’s hard work has paid off in a sense. By improving his ability to catch passes, Abron has reaped the benefits of getting the ball in the flat, where there are fewer defenders to worry about.
“I don’t gotta go through traffic,” Abron said. “Out there you might have a cornerback, a defensive end, or maybe one linebacker, but running on the inside you’ve got almost everybody.”
Catching more passes hasn’t been all good, though, at least from a personal standpoint. In exchange, he has averaged slightly less than 77 yards rushing; he entered the season needing 82 rushing yards per game to break Olivo’s record.
Of course, that figure doesn’t include the possibility of Missouri going to a bowl game. If the Tigers did so, the threshold for breaking the record would lower to 76 yards per game.
So, in a sense, Abron is right: If he does what is best for the team, everything else will fall into place.
“I feel pretty good about some of the stuff I’ve done over the years, but I’ve still got great strides and a whole lot more work to do,” Abron said.