Zach Yeager is a 6-2, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback at Minneapolis (MN) North High School.
Despite navigating through the challenges of a COVID-19 pandemic during the course of his senior year, Yeager still managed to lead the Polars to an MSHSL Section 4AA championship and was the recipient of numerous all-metro and all-state honors.
An honor student maintaining a 3.93 GPA, he’d received letters to play for several Ivy League programs, including Columbia and Cornell, as well as offers to play at HBCUs including Tennesee State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Alcorn State.
However, Yeager verbally committed – and eventually signed – with North Carolina A&T during the NCAA’s early signing period.
Yeager stands out not only because of his athletic exploits or his stellar academic resume; it’s because of his apparent appreciation and outspokenness for HBCUs and his community at large.
Zach, you made your announcement back in September that A&T was the perfect fit for you, have other schools tried to come in and change your mind?
Yes, there have been other schools that tried to come in and change my mind, mainly Ivy League schools. A lot of them will hit me up on Twitter or text/call my number asking if I’m 100% on my commitment or if they still have a chance at getting me to sign with them. I’m respectful with all of them and always let them know that I’m locked in with A&T.
North Carolina A&T is a special place for those who have attended. What was the moment to make you say it was the place for you?
I’ve really been wanting to attend an HBCU ever since I went on an HBCU tour with my school back in 8th grade. We didn’t get to go to NCAT, but just the family feel that I got from being on those campuses made me realize I want to be at an HBCU during my college experience. So, there wasn’t really a specific moment where I knew that I wanted to go to A&T, but I knew I wanted to go to a historically black college, and A&T is the best of the best.
Now let’s talk football. From an offensive standpoint, how does the A&T offensive philosophy fit your skillset?
One of the reasons I chose North Carolina A&T is because of their offense. I really see myself fitting in with what they like to do as an offense. A lot of the stuff that I did in high school within my offense translates well into what they do in their offense. A lot of the passing concepts and RPO game that I’ve been taught throughout high school will help me at the next level in my new offense.
How did the coaching staff feel they could use you in their offensive system?
Me and the coaches on the staff talk often. Like I said before, I fit into what they want in a quarterback, and I believe that 110%. We haven’t talked too much about where I would be in terms of the depth chart or things like that, but all of the coaches know I’m ready to come in and compete from day 1. Coach Barnette and Coach Washington loved what they saw from me in film, and that was why they wanted to offer me. I’ve watched just about every game I could find from past seasons, and I really like the way plays are called and run at NCAT, just one more reason why I chose to commit here.
Coming from Minnesota, I’m sure you are fully aware of what happened to George Floyd. Do you feel those types of tragedies have any influence on athletes and their choices in higher education?
Being from Minnesota and also going to school in North Minneapolis (close to where George Floyd was killed), the killing of George Floyd definitely had an impact on me, and some of my decision to turn down Ivy League offers to attend an HBCU. I also believe that it has helped start a movement of athletes going to HBCUs. I think of it this way – why go play for the white man at a white school while helping their community and their university when all they want from you is your body for 4-5 years? When you go to an HBCU, you get to play for your people and put on for your community every single day, and that means so much to me.
Once you made your decision to attend an HBCU, were there people that inquired about the school, and did you find yourself educating those that inquired?
After I committed, there was a ton of support from my community, and also the HBCU community. Then, on the other hand, there were people questioning why I didn’t choose one of the other schools that offered me, especially an Ivy League. My best answer for those people is that I made the best decision for me. This decision will stay with me for the rest of my life and I’m confident that I made the right one. When someone asks where I’m going to college, I often find myself saying to people, “North Carolina A&T – An HBCU,” and I say that with a great sense of pride.
Do you see yourself in the same parallels as Makur Maker of Howard University, in wanting to elevate the status of HBCUs?
I’ve definitely always seen myself as a leader, and I made this decision for me, but also to encourage other athletes that are my age and younger to look into attending an HBCU. I personally feel like there is starting to be a wave of players who normally wouldn’t attend a historically Black college, look into it. I’m just a part of this movement, and I hope I’ve inspired other young black athletes to join this movement.
Finally, what do you want to accomplish in your four years at North Carolina A&T?
In my four years at North Carolina A&T, I want to break records and win games. I’ve been a winner all of my life, and I don’t plan on changing once I get to college. I’ve talked to Lamar Raynard a few times before I committed, and I really look up to him. I want to break his records. Outside of football, I want to make a difference in my community and do whatever I can to help those who need it, whether that be community service, visiting elementary schools, or serving food, I want to help. My ultimate dream since I was little has been to make it to the NFL, and I believe I could be one of the next Aggies to do it.