Greensburg Central Catholic grad Zach Guiser eyes return for Akron after 'scary' concussion
It was an 11-play drive that lasted more than six minutes, and Zach Guiser remembers nothing about it.
Guiser, Akron's starting free safety, went low to tackle a scrambling Jacob Park as the Iowa State quarterback took off on a third-and-goal from the 14-yard line. Park jumped to avoid Guiser's tackle, and the top of the Greensburg Central Catholic graduate's helmet hit the leg of Akron linebacker Josh Ward.
Park scored on the play, part of a 41-14 Iowa State victory, but Guiser was motionless on the field for several minutes.
"I was unconscious for about a minute. It was scary stuff," Guiser said Monday, 10 days after the injury. "I don't remember anything about the drive or anything about the play."
Guiser, a fifth-year senior, made the trip with Akron to Troy last weekend but did not play.
As for the Zips' game Saturday against Mid-American Conference rival Bowling Green, Guiser said, "It's not looking so good this week."
It is the third diagnosed concussion for Guiser. He suffered one during spring practice and another while playing at GCC. He remains in concussion protocol and still has several steps — a rigorous weight training session, a noncontact practice and a contact practice — before being cleared. He hopes that happens in time to play against Ball State on Oct. 7.
Akron (1-3) is equally hopeful as its chances of competing in the conference are better when its defensive captain is on the field.
"The thing about Zach Guiser is these kind of guys don't come along very often," Akron defensive backs coach Mike Woodford said. "Guys like him are a rare breed. I've coached for 30 years, and I've coached maybe two or three guys like Zach Guiser."
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Guiser is a three-year starter — his first collegiate start came at Oklahoma — and the first-team CoSIDA academic All-American has consistently ranked among the Zips leaders in tackles since cracking the lineup.
In Akron's season-opening loss at Penn State, Guiser finished with 10 tackles (eight solo), a tackle for loss and a first-quarter interception of Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley in the end zone.
"It was one of those things that was bittersweet," Guiser said. "I thought the interception would impact the game more. I felt like it gave us some momentum."
For Guiser, it was a solid start to a senior season that began with a life-changing moment.
He planned to propose to longtime girlfriend, Rachel Deglau, and he wanted to make it memorable.
A friend of Guiser's worked in Akron's marketing department, and they arranged getting access to the football stadium. Guiser made Deglau believe they were there to watch a marketing video but instead asked her to marry to him on a video that played on the scoreboard.
"It was a really great moment," he said. "We got some great footage."
Guiser has put good things on tape throughout his college career. He has made 131 career tackles with seven passes defensed and four interceptions. He plans to further his physical therapy education after his playing career is finished, and he expects to participate in Akron's pro day, where he believes an invitation to a NFL camp will follow.
His position coach believes Guiser has what it takes.
"Zach goes hard every play. He takes every play like he's the last guy to make the tackle to win the national championship." Woodford said. "He's just invaluable, the way he leads, plays and his drive."
All reasons why Guiser wants to get back to playing as quickly as possible.
"Coach (Terry) Bowden sets four goals for us every year," Guiser said. "Win the MAC-East championship, win the MAC, go to a bowl game and beat Kent State. That's where my focus is, to help us reach those goals."
Mike Kovak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MKovak_Trib.