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Alumni corner: Mines’ Michael Zeman working on Master’s, growing Orediggers football

Preseason All-American in Division II continuing to excel on and off field

Colorado School of Mines running back Michael Zeman (40) runs upfield during the first half of the quarterfinal playoff game against Angelo State on Dec. 4, 2021. (Denver Post file photo)
Colorado School of Mines running back Michael Zeman (40) runs upfield during the first half of the quarterfinal playoff game against Angelo State on Dec. 4, 2021. (Denver Post file photo)

The decision was an enormous one for Michael Zeman. Yet one that ultimately didn’t require much consideration.

Once an incredible football season at Colorado Mines ended with a wrenching playoff loss last year, Zeman went into the offseason as one of the top players in the nation. In normal times, it would have been the end of the line for Zeman’s playing days. Yet as everyone knows, the past few years have been anything but normal times.

Zeman, the former Holy Family standout, once again is a central figure in the dynamic offensive attack at Mines, one of the top Division II programs in the nation. Since Mines didn’t play during the pandemic fall of 2020, and with the extra season of eligibility granted by the NCAA for the ’20-21 year in Zeman’s back pocket, he opted to return for one more run — as well as a Master’s degree — with Mines.

“I love being on the Mines football team. I just wasn’t quite ready to be done with football,” Zeman said. “After last year I didn’t really know what my plan was. I kind of explored maybe getting a job. But throughout that whole process I just decided I wasn’t quite ready to be done.

“Working, getting a job, can always wait. I’ve got a great degree and I’m in a great Master’s program. I’m able to play football and there’s not much better than that.”

Zeman put together a season for the ages last year as Mines advanced to the Division II semifinals, finishing fourth in the voting for the Harlon Hill Award as the top player in Division II. Zeman tied the Mines record with 26 total touchdowns and finished with 1,608 rushing yards, the second-best total in program history.

It has been much tougher sledding so far this season for Zeman, though Mines has started the season with a demanding schedule. Although the Orediggers are 0-2, the losses were against top-10 teams (Grand Valley State, Angelo State). Both were three-point games, with the Angelo State game going into overtime. With defensive attention focused on him, Zeman has rushed for 115 yards on 39 carries (2.9 per attempt) going into this week’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener at Adams State.

Everything Zeman has achieved also has occurred at a school with an Ivy League-level of academic pedigree. He is scheduled to complete a Master’s in December in Engineering and Technology Management, which he described as “Mines’ version of an MBA.”

“It’s never easy at one of the nation’s best engineering schools,” Zeman said. “But I think it really helps out early, as a freshman you learn valuable time management skills. Most freshmen don’t travel so you get to learn what school is all about. Everyone knows school is hard and is going to be hard no matter what year of school, no matter what degree. Just being able to rely on other guys who may have done better in this subject, or that class, to help you out and explain different things.

“It’s amazing to see how we’ve grown since my freshman year. We’re helping the program get to a place where we still want it to be in five or 10 years.”

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