Navy quarterback Zach Abey was third on the depth chart for the Midshipmen at the beginning of the 2016 season, but injuries to the top two quarterbacks forced him into the starting role in December.
That experience has helped Abey, now a junior, lead the Mids to a 4-0 start this year. He has run for 656 yards in Navy's triple-option offense and has completed 12 passes for 385 yards. Abey led a dominant rushing performance during a win against Tulsa Sept. 30, running for 185 of the Mids' 421 rushing yards.
"I was kind of shell-shocked going in last year, just a little not confident with everything that I did with the calls that I made, with just executing the plays," Abey said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Sept. 27. "And this year, just being more comfortable there, knowing defenses, knowing the ins and outs of the offense. So just being comfortable, that allows me to be confident."
Abey was forced into action during the American Athletic Conference championship game against Temple last December after starting quarterback Will Worth suffered a broken foot. Abey, who had only played in two college games to that point, finished the game and started Navy's final two games of the season against Army and Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Mids finished the season on a three-game losing streak en route to a 9-5 overall record.
Navy's offense struggled against Temple and Army but exploded for 45 points against Louisiana Tech, perhaps a sign of things to come this year with Abey. He threw for 159 yards and ran for 114 yards in the bowl game.
Navy began this season with a 42-19 win at Florida Atlantic Sept. 1 thanks to a 416-yard rushing performance, 235 of which came from Abey. Three weeks later, the Mids put together a 569-yard rushing performance during a 42-32 win against Cincinnati, and Abey accounted for 128 of those yards.
"It feels good. I knew I had to come in and earn their trust," Abey said of his early season success. "We came off a good start with FAU and then kind of had a shaky game [against Tulane Sept. 9], but we came back and finally have our offense gelling. It feels good to be in command and just knowing that everyone trusts me."
Abey, a Pasadena, Md., native, graduated from Archbishop Spalding High School in the spring of 2014, then spent the next year at the Naval Academy Prep School before attending the Naval Academy starting in the fall of 2015. Abey was named
The Baltimore Sun
All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year
for the 2013 season.
Abey, whose brother is in the Coast Guard, wanted to follow in his footsteps in serving in the military, but he also wanted to play high-level football, which pushed him to nearby Navy. With regards to the experience at Navy, Abey said, “This is not a normal college, this is not a normal college football team." For example, Abey noted the Mids have "exam week" every six weeks; during this time the Mids have to wake up early to take exams before a day of classes and football.
"It's a true honor. I've always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself," Abey said. "This is only something I can dream of, being a starting quarterback at Navy. Being a hometown guy, I have a lot of support from my friends from high school around here and everything, so it's truly a blessing."
Naval Academy graduates serve a minimum of five years in the Navy or Marine Corps after leaving Annapolis Md., and one geopolitical issue in particular that could impact Abey after he graduates is unrest on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea tested a nuclear bomb underground in early September
, spurring myriad warnings from the United States.
"I'm a political science major, so I deal with a lot of overseas and different countries and politics in those countries. Some of my classes talk a lot about that," Abey said. "I'm on the brigade, like in our companies and stuff. It's something that we signed up for. I don't think anyone is scared, but it's just the fact that once you graduate, we're probably going to have to do something over there, overseas somewhere."
For more from Abey, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/PressBox