Fresno State sophomore quarterback has high expectations for himself as he enters the 2015 season as the Bulldogs’ starting signal caller. (Fresno State Athletics)
When the Fresno State football team started 0-3 in 2014, the Red Wave was eager to see a redshirt freshman quarterback named Zack Greenlee.
Many fans had already heard of Greenlee’s accolades from Lincoln High School in Stockton, and they believed he would be the answer for the Bulldogs.
In the fourth game of the season, against Southern Utah, Greenlee finally got his opportunity at Fresno State.
Greenlee entered the game in the second half and connected on an 81-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Da’Mari Scott, helping the ‘Dogs earn their first win of the season.
The fans’ optimism was reflected immediately when social media buzzed with the quarterback’s name.
For the rest of the 2014 season, Greenlee continued to show glimpses of his potential.
But he also struggled at times and learned valuable lessons.
Now, he looks back at the first two years of his college career, and he strives to move forward as a leader.
”I’ve learned so much this past couple of years — understanding defenses, the speed of the game,” Greenlee said. “Confidence grows with understanding the offense, defense and everything on the field. I think my confidence has grown a lot these past few years.”
That confidence has propelled him to the starting quarterback position at Fresno State.
Greenlee won the fall competition over junior transfer Ford Childress, redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson and true freshman Chason Virgil.
The former Lincoln High standout has come a long way since he first arrived at Fresno State, but he gives credit to veterans such as Derek Carr, who was a fifth-year senior quarterback when Greenlee arrived.
“[Carr] was a great person to look up to at my position and as a leader on the team,” Greenlee said.
Before he came to Fresno State, Greenlee had developed under the leadership of head coach Brian Gray at Lincoln High School.
“[Gray] was big in developing me as a quarterback,” Greenlee said. “He brought me up as a sophomore to play varsity and helped me develop my game a lot.”
Greenlee’s teammates at Lincoln High School included wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who now plays with the New Orleans Saints, and Justin Davis, who is now a running back at USC.
“They helped me develop my game too,” Greenlee said.
Since first tried football in the third grade, Greenlee has been in love with the game.
But he didn’t find his niche until the fifth grade when he played as quarterback.
“I’ve always been good at throwing the ball, so I loved it,” Greenlee said. “I like having the ball in my hands every play.”
Greenlee’s other passion was baseball.
“I played some baseball. But when I got to high school, coach Gray said he wanted me to focus on football,” Greenlee said. “That’s what I did, and it helped me out a lot. It got me to where I am today.”
Just like those who came before him, Greenlee now looks to be a leader for his team.
“Anytime you’re a quarterback, you have a leadership role,” he said. “ It’s just part of the position. I’ve taken that. I want to grow with it. I want to keep getting better at it and be someone that someone can look up to.”