Not all kids playing sports are fortunate enough to have a dad that’s able and willing to consistently work with them from childhood, drive them to various out-of-state football camps, take them to coaching clinics, take them to multiple out-of-state football combines, etc.
Fortunately for Elijah Zeise, he had one of those people in his father,Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Paul Zeise.
Paul wasn’t a father that pushed his kid into playing sports and wasn’t someone that tried to live athletically through his son. His only goal was to assist his son in any way he could and try and help Elijah become the best person and athlete that he could possibly be.
Elijah repaid his dad first when he graduated from Pitt with a dual major and then the icing on the cake occurred last night in Arizona, when he played in his first NFL preseason game.
Like he’s been throughout his son’s entire athletic career, Paul was in the stands as No.46 suited up for the Los Angeles Chargers. As you can imagine, it was a dream come true for the entire Zeise family.
”The excitement for me was on a completely different level,” Paul Zeise said to Pittsburgh Sports Now. “His last couple years at Pitt he was a starter, played a lot and his position was pretty secure. The difference in those games was you wanted the team to do well and win. In this game, winning wasn’t that big of a deal. I was rooting for the defense to get back on the field so he’d have more chances to play and show what he can do.
”When he first came out of the tunnel it really hit me. It was very emotional for me. Here’s a kid that I started watching play team football in seventh grade and a kid I started playing football with in the front yard when he was in second grade. Now, even though these guys didn’t play in that game, Larry Fitzgerald is on the other sideline and Philip Rivers is on his sideline. I can’t even explain the feeling I had. It was surreal and I had to pinch myself.”
Even though he was rooting for Elijah to do well, the sportswriter and football observer in Paul was still present as he watched every movement his son made on the field.
“I thought he did really well, especially for an undrafted free agent and someone that’s on the bottom of the depth chart,” said Zeise. “He got a lot of plays on special teams and really did well. Defensively, he had some tackles (four) and was around the ball a lot. As his dad and as a sports writer, there are some things that he has to do better. He struggled at times to get off some of the blocks when some of those 300 pounders were coming at him.”
— mike vukovcan (@mvukovcan) August 9, 2019
”As far as the speed of the game went, as it went on, he seemed to settle in. But for a first game, he did really well. He’s got a lot of work to do in order to give himself a shot to at least make himself a practice squad guy. But for his first game, looking at it as his dad and a writer I thought he did well.”
It’s a long shot for any undrafted free agent to make an NFL roster so everything from here on in is icing on the cake.
For at least one night, the kid from North Allegheny played in an NFL game.
”Because of his degrees from Pitt and with some of the job leads he already has received, he’s not in a situation where this is make or break for his life,” said Zeise. “The football part of it, he said, ‘Dad, I’m going to take my shot, see what I can do, see if I can make the team and if I’m not good enough, I can walk way knowing that I got to play a little bit at the highest level you can play at and took my shot.’
“For me, when I saw him on the field I still couldn’t believe it. Today, I still don’t know that I believe it. It was pretty cool the first time he went in the game and then looking up on the Jumbotron when he made a play. He gets up and I see my last name is up on the screen, yeah that was a really, really special thing and night.”