Before Western Michigan recruited Zach Terrell, the former Homestead quarterback knew little about the Mid-American Conference school. The more he learned and became familiar with the school there came a realization there was something special about to happen with the Broncos football program.
After Terrell’s redshirt season in 2012 and a 1-11 record in 2013, the Broncos hit the national spotlight with a 13-1 record, a No. 15 national ranking and a Cotton Bowl appearance in Terrell’s fifth and final season.
"At Homestead, my goal was always to go to a Big Ten college or Notre Dame, which was always my dream," Terrell said. "I would be lying if I told you my dream was always to go to Western Michigan. I didn’t even know where Western Michigan was until they recruited me. As I started to spend more time at Western Michigan … I just wanted to leave it a better place than how I found it. That was my dream, and as time went on it became very clear we were going to be able to do some special stuff by the time my career was over.
"As I look back on it, I have hit every stage of highs and lows that you could probably think of. Four years ago, we were 1-11 and this year we were 13-1. Just to see that maturation and growth and guys sticking together and believing in a vision."
After Terrell threw for 3,533 yards and 33 touchdowns this past season, a professional future has become a possibility. Terrell took part in the East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Jan. 21, as the process of getting noticed by NFL scouts and coaches has begun.
"It was a great experience, and I learned a lot and did pretty well," Terrell said. "I answered a lot of questions that teams might have had about me with whether or not I would be able to do things under center, whether I would be able to pick up an offense in the NFL, West Coast-type system that quickly or whether I was able to make throws down field. I was able to answer pretty much every question mark that teams had about me."
With limited chances, Terrell threw for 33 yards for the winning West team. There have been some questions about the 6-foot-2, 204-pound Terrell’s ability to adapt to the professional passing game. But for Terrell, who won the William V. Campbell Trophy as college football’s top scholar-athlete, there are no doubts.
"When it comes down to it, football is football," he said. "Everyone runs similar concepts, they just name it something different. It is just how quickly you can master the verbiage and really understand the concept of the offense and what coaches are trying to do."
Some NFL draft rankings have Terrell listed as a top-20 quarterback prospect, but with more than likely a free agent future in store for him. Terrell hopes to get a chance to throw at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in early March in whatever situation that he can show his abilities, but also has a pro day scheduled at Western Michigan on March 15.
"Being a professional athlete has always been a dream of mine," Terrell said. "Now that my collegiate career is over, this is the next step for me. It would mean a great deal to me to not only prove to myself but prove to others that I was able to play at the highest level.
"That was a big part of going to (the East-West Shrine game), showing teams that I how I deserve to get an invite to (the NFL combine). I did my best, and I definitely didn’t hurt myself. If I don’t get an invite, I am hoping I will at least be a camp arm, someone who throws down there, and I will still get a chance to meet with teams and be a part of the combine. My goal is to be a part of it, not matter what, whatever shape or form they let me."