Floyd’s Knob (Ind.) Floyd Central offensive tackle Zen Michalski announced his commitment to Ohio State on Saturday. His recruitment has mirrored his physical growth, from tall, lanky defensive lineman to full-fledged Power Five offensive tackle and four-star. 247Sports spoke to him about how that happened, his rapid rise, and more.
AT: I don’t know if I’ve asked you before about the specifics of putting on all that weight. Did you adapt a specific diet, train differently, what all went into that?
ZM: Mainly at the end of my junior year, I was 217 pounds and 6-foot-6, so that doesn’t exactly sound like an offensive tackle. My head coach after that game — a game where I had been blocking a D1 player — I think his name was Bomba and he was going to Miami-Ohio (note: James Bomba from Bloomington South), he was playing D-End against me and I had a good game. My coach was like ‘hey do you want to play college football?’ I was like ‘yeah I want to play college football, what do you mean?’ So he challenged me to put on as much as good weight as possible. I worked a lot with my strength coach at school. He gave me things to do without weights.
I went to my grandma’s house and we feasted over home-cooked meals every night like chili or chicken breast and all that good stuff. I was trying to feed myself non-stop. And me and my dad did a lot of speed work and agility to keep that speed and power while I put weight on because we weren’t able to do normal weight lifting stuff cause that was when stuff shut down. I tried to eat good foods. I haven’t drank soda for probably a year and a half now. It was really putting bad weight on me, so I cut that out. I worked hard with my dad every day. I didn’t think I’d put on 70 pounds. It came nicely. I think I could have kept going with the weight, but the season arrived and it was time to play football.
AT: I remember when you got your first offer, I think it was Indiana State, then some MAC schools offered, then it was whoa, Louisville offered, and now Ohio State and Penn State. Are you still surprised when those come in? Or what is your reaction when you think back to how that all progressed?
ZM: It’s just amazing. I wanted to play college football, but I never thought for a second I’d be talking to Coach Day and he would be offering me a full scholarship, and the same with Coach Franklin at Penn State. It’s so amazing and surprising to me. This week, when I de-committed, I turned down offers from Michigan and Florida. I didn’t post any of that because I was already committed to Ohio State. Really, God blessed me a lot with this. It motivates you to keep working.
AT: I know Louisville was a school you grew up watching, it’s close to your family, so was it tough to make the decision to de-commit from them?
ZM: It’s definitely tough, but I kind of wanted to think more of what was better for my family, what would take care of my family, and is it the best choice to go to Louisville? I know you said Louisville is close to my family, but I also have family in Ohio. It was a toss-up and I based it on relationships with coaches and commits and how they would develop me as a person for the next four or five years.
AT: Was it tough to come to that decision without being able to take visits and do some of the things you would have been able to do in other years?
ZM: It’s funny you say that, because as you know, I’m kind of a late bloomer and I started getting recruited late, so this is all I know. I never go to take visits, never got to see colleges. I drove up to Ohio State last Sunday with my dad and the coaches suggested stuff for us to go do and they FaceTimed us later when when were off-campus and it was really cool. That was a really big thing for me. People talk about going to visit a college five or six times and seeing people and getting comfortable. I never got to develop that with any school, so it was just the relationships I had now if that makes sense.
AT: Ohio State has played for Big Ten titles, national titles, in the College Football Playoff, and now you could have the opportunity to come from Floyd Central and play in those games. What is your reaction when you hear that?
ZM: That it’s just crazy. I don’t know how else to say it. It’s mind blowing the coaches are giving me the opportunity to play at, in my opinion, the biggest and best program in college football. It still feels wild and I can’t believe I have a scholarship almost two months later now.
AT: Do you still eat at Grandma’s?
ZM: Oh yeah. It’s tough now beause they’re in Lexington and we usually go every other weekend, but I have games on Friday and Saturdays, film in the morning until about noon, so I haven’t gone down there as much but as soon as I can, I’m going to be feasting for sure.
AT: And what does she think of all this recruiting stuff and does she know she helped make it happen?
ZM: It’s so funny, during quarantine, I would come in from working out with my dad and say ‘Granny, I got an offer from Duke.’ And she’d ask me ‘what does that mean?’ So I’d tell her, ‘it’s a scholarship, I don’t have to pay for college’ and she’d go ‘oh my gosh! Here, eat this chili.’ She would keep feeding me and feeding me. I don’t think she knew directly how much she was helping, but she was a gi-normous part of it. I wouldn’t have put on that weight if I hadn’t gone there for so long.