From Undrafted to Super Bowl LV: The Inspiring Story of Zach Triner '15
After graduating from Assumption, Zach Triner ’15 moved across the country to San Diego, where he lived in his Jeep Wrangler in the parking lot of former NFL kicker John Carney’s training facility. Triner, undrafted and hoping to make it to the National Football League (NFL) – a dream he’d had since writing it down in his second-grade yearbook – with unwavering faith was willing to do whatever it took to make his dream come true.
“Someone along the way told me it would be impossible or too hard,” the Marshfield native said about abandoning his dream of playing professional football for lacrosse in high school. “You don’t want to listen to it, but it’s hard not to have it in your subconscious.”
Five years later, Triner is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ long snapper, but it wasn’t an easy road; it took a lot of faith to get there. Over the next four years, Triner had workouts, tryouts, or participated in camps 13 times, eventually moving back east to put his psychology and political science degrees to use working for Fidelity Investments in between, but he never gave up.
“I tried out for a third of the League and heard no after no after no, signed a contract and got cut, signed a contract and got cut,” he said. “You have to be some kind of psycho to keep going. But Assumption did a good job in helping me realize that if you believe it, and are willing to put in the work, and have faith, then you can do it. People hear the word faith and think it’s religious and don’t want to touch it, but what faith really means is do you believe in it?”
Triner, who decided to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL when he enrolled at Assumption in 2012, credits the institution for providing him with the skills needed to succeed both on and off the football field. Triner said he learned how to carry himself and to work hard at all times, even on the days he did not necessarily feel up to it. He shared that then-Assumption head football coach Bob Chesney taught him that if you work on yourself throughout the day, work on small things that make you a better person, like picking up a tipped-over trash can or holding the door for someone, it will carry over onto the field.
“When you get to practice, you start looking for the small things to improve upon,” he said. “When you try to be a better person off the field, you would be surprised how easy it is to become a better player and find things to do better.”
Triner maintained that work ethic and, although he is the oldest rookie in the NFL this season, he’s already making an impact on his coaches and teammates. “I think what Zach brings to the team is energy and toughness,” said Buccaneers’ Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong. “He is a competitive person and he is a tough kid.”
Armstrong said that Triner “does a heck of a job running our meetings” when he isn’t in the meeting room. “When you talk about off the field, I also think he has some leadership abilities. He’s got a good chance to be a leader – he is a serious kid and he studies the game. I am very happy to have him,” he added.
Along with the support of his wife (high school sweetheart Carissa), the lessons learned at Assumption and his faith are what helped Triner push through the hard times. Though Triner grew up a Catholic, with age he drifted from the Church. He said two friends, Blake Nold ’15 and Jack Dustin ’15, were helpful in bringing him back. “Blake and Jack, every week, no matter if they went out the night before, would get up and go to church,” he said. “They showed me that you can do both. You can have a social life and your faith. It was the ultimate thing to strive for.
Triner’s faith grew as he continued to pursue his dream. In San Diego, Carney, who traveled a path similar to Triner’s before spending 23 years in the NFL, gave him a Bible; he is someone Triner considers an important influence and “one of the good guys in an industry that can be very money focused.”
During that time, one moment in particular has stuck with Triner. While grabbing lunch at an In-N-Out Burger, Triner paid the tab of a young man in front of him whose card was declined. The man, who was going through a tough time like Triner, thanked him and shared the message that even through hard times, Jesus loves you.
“It was one of those times when you strip everything away and see what you have left,” he said. “And I realized there’s that unconditional love from Jesus. If you slip and fall, make mistakes, it’s still there.”
Triner’s faith remains one of the most important parts of his life. When he was working with the Green Bay Packers during the 2018 off-season, he and a few other players gathered for an impromptu Bible study group. In Tampa Bay, he attends the team’s weekly Bible study meetings.
“Someone in my Bible group said it’s OK for it to be difficult. It’s OK to not be OK, just as long as you don’t stay there,” he said. “As long as you put one foot forward toward your goal, you’re OK.”
Former teammate Scott Simonson paved the way for Triner and Deonte Harris, an undrafted free agent having succes with the New Orleans Saints, when he was signed by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Simonson would become the first former Greyhound to play in a Super Bowl as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
Triner said that through everything, he just kept taking the next step forward and leaned on those around him, including Simonson, who has played for the Raiders, Panthers, and most recently the New York Giants.
“I am lucky that Scott had the success he did,” said Triner. “To have someone blaze a path and to have that path to follow is so important. It goes back to having faith and belief in your goals. I saw him have success and knew if he could, I could do it.”
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