Not very many people get the chance to play quarterback for one of the top division II schools in the nation. Even less of those people start as a freshman or a redshirt-freshman. Shepherd University quarterback Jeff Ziemba is a part of both of those.
Out of high school, Jeff was not highly recruited. He said that it was at a high school combine where he was introduced to Shepherd. He visited campus and liked the school and the stadium enough to decide that he wanted to come here to Shepherd University, along with his teammate, running back Jabre Lolley.
Jeff decided to be a therapeutic recreation major when he came here. He said he enjoys working with mentally challenged kids and wanted to work with that more.
Jeff was redshirted as a freshman, meaning he was not eligible to play during the year. The following year, as a redshirt-freshman, Jeff began to see some time on the field, making the best out any time he had. The quarterback at the time, junior Trae Tinsman, had a few games where he struggled.
In week seven against Notre Dame, Jeff got his first start of his collegiate career. He completed 16 passes on 24 attempts, had 126 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. “I didn’t expect it,” said Ziemba, “At the time, I wasn’t locked in. Eventually, I got the hang of it.”
The starting job now belonged to Jeff. He played well in his next two games leading up to the regular season finale at 8-2 Concord. And when the spotlight was its brightest, Jeff played one of the best games of his career. He threw only one incomplete pass the entire game, finishing with 231 yards and three touchdowns to help Shepherd claim the Mountain East Title and an undefeated regular season. He said that winning that game was his favorite memory so far at Shepherd.
This year, Jeff has continued his strong play and elevated it to another level. Through eight games, he has thrown for 1711 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception, making him the most efficient quarterback in the Mountain East Conference. He said his strong play comes from listening to coach, and that “if I trust him, it will lead to efficiency.”
Head Coach Monte Cater has spoken very highly of Jeff’s performance. “He might be a redshirt-sophomore but he plays like a two year senior,” he said following Shepherd’s 51-0 win over UVa-Wise on Saturday, Oct. 11. Jeff had a career day that game, throwing for 271 yards and four touchdowns.
The following week against Notre Dame, Jeff took his first regular season loss here at Shepherd. “It hurt in the beginning,” he said, however he plans on using that loss as motivation to get better. “This is where we start our run.”
Outside of football, Jeff’s interests are “the outdoors and food,” he said with a grin.
The Rams have two games left in the regular season and must win both games, including a match against undefeated Concord, in order to make it to the playoffs. “We’re taking it one week at a time,” said Ziemba, “our goal is to win out and hopefully win a national title.”