MONFORT HEIGHTS – At December’s Early Signing Day for college football, La Salle High School paraded out four Division I recruits with Jaylen Johnson going to Ohio State, Devonta Smith to Alabama, Iesa Jarmon to Cincinnati and Jaymar Mundy to Miami University.
One of the Greater Catholic League-South’s Tri-Players of the Year, Lancers quarterback Zach Branam, was not there. Branam was La Salle’s starter in 2019 when they won the Ohio Division II state title his junior year.
In 15 games as a junior, Branam threw for 1,676 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 1,394 and 14 scores. With the season shortened to 11 games as a senior, he still threw for 1,536 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 1,395 yards and 19 more. He ran for 253 yards and five scores against Moeller as a junior and 257 and four touchdowns vs. Anderson in a playoff game this past fall.
Despite some jaw-dropping games, Branam’s offers were not at the Division I level and he originally committed to Valparaiso. However, patience and persistence paid off and when Navy assistant coach P.J. Volker called with an offer, Branam was onboard the big ship as quickly as you can say, “Ken Niumatalolo.”
Wednesday, he inked his letter-of-intent to coach Niumatalolo’s Midshipmen.
‘I definitely had a chip on my shoulder, but I think that’s just the driving motivation for me,” Branam said. “That really pushed me to do well. Hopefully, I proved everybody wrong.”
Added La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin, “I think he was underrated or overlooked to some degree, but it never bothered him. Whether the game was going well or it was a struggle, Zach never changed his tone. He just kept playing and kept working.”
Where some schools may have backed off on a quarterback listed at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Navy embraces skill players of that size in their tough-to-defend triple-option running scheme. Plus, McLaughlin said Branam can squat between 400 and 500 pounds.
“Their style of offense compliments my game,” Branam said. “I’m really looking forward to running the triple-option and everything they do. We’ll do great together.”
An added plus is the Midshipmen play in the American Athletic Conference, so his family can see him against the Cincinnati Bearcats both home and away. As a scout team member his first two seasons at La Salle, he had to battle the likes of current UC tight end Josh Whyle.
“I think his game is going to translate very well,” McLaughlin said of Branam. “He’s also smart which you have to be in that system with pre-and post-snap decisions. I look forward to him going there being successful and having a lot of playing time.”
McLaughlin says 2019 Lancer linebacker Luke Thiemann is at a prep school now and will be joining Branam’s class at Navy.
“I wish both sides well, West Point and Navy, but I’ll be definitely rooting for Navy,” McLaughlin said of the annual battle for the Commander-in-Cheif’s Trophy.
For what it’s worth, a local has previously fared well at the quarterback position at Navy. Out of the old Purcell High School, Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy at Navy in 1963. After his service commitment, he had a successful NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. Even after that, Staubach made millions in real estate.
Branam is also thinking of an end game with his plans to major in mechanical engineering at Annapolis. Make no mistake, the Midshipmen will be getting an intelligent quarterback.
“Forget football, you have an amazing university that will set you up for life,” Branam said.