One male and one female athlete were selected to receive the 2014 Hammer Strength All American Athlete of the Year Award: Zach Zenner from South Dakota State University and Rafaelle Souza from the University of Mississippi.
Zach Zenner stepped on to the South Dakota State campus four years ago and quickly demonstrated a focus, determination, dedication and drive that far exceeded most student-athletes. He is a gifted student-athlete, but conducts himself with humility and respect, and certainly does not rely solely on his ability. He pushes himself to the limit each and every day to make himself and his teammates better. He leads by example and expects his teammates to follow.
Zenner introduced himself to the nation as a sophomore by leading all of Division I FCS in with 2,044 rushing yards and an average of 157.2 yards per game. He followed that up rushing for 2,015 yards as a junior, becoming only the second running back in history with multiple 2,000 yard seasons. He scored 23 rushing touchdowns and crossed the 100-yard mark 12 times in 14 games, which resulted in him making six different All-America teams following the 2013 season, including the College Sports Journal FCS Fabulous Fifty All-America team. He also earned an Elite Performance Award from College Football Performance Awards.
Among the scientific-based criteria used to select the award, Zenner's cumulative performances over the past two seasons rank among the best in the history of the Football Championship Subdivision. While rushing his way into history, Zenner garnered two selections to the FCS ADA Academic All-Star Team after posting a 3.85 GPA in pre-medicine. Additionally he earned a first-team selection to the Capital One Academic All-America Team for his work in the classroom.
When not hitting the books, the weights or avoiding the hits on the field, Zenner can be found serving the SDSU and Brookings community in a variety of ways. He serves as a SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Council) member, along with Project Joy and Adopt a Family, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Summit League Food Fight, Samaritan's Feet, State-A-Thon (Children's Miracle Network), Haiti Solar Ovens, Paint the Falls Blue, and Campus Clean Up, along with many more. He is an active member of FCA and extremely generous with his time, and spent his spring break on a mission trip to Jamaica. He truly enjoys being involved with these activities and helping others!
Zenner mirrors his work ethic on the field and in the classroom in the weight room. In our most recent performance testing period, he set personal records in the vertical jump (36.5 in.), standing long jump (10,1.25.), power clean (358lbs.), squat (497lbs.), bench press (359lbs.) and 40-yard dash (Electronic 4.78 sec., Hand-Held 4.50 sec.) Additionally, his power clean and squat performances set new Jackrabbit running back records. His work ethic and drive are legendary and led to him being considered super human by his teammates. A humble and unassuming man, he simply wants to help his team be as successful as possible. His drive and dedication makes him a lifelong champion, well beyond the gridiron.
As a Civil Engineering major, Rafaelle Souza demonstrated exceptional focus and consistency of purpose in her desire to excel in her studies. Coming to Ole Miss from Brazil, Souza arrived on campus during the summer prior to her first season to begin learning English as a second language in order to fulfill her academic goals. Souza did just that by maintaining a 3.77 GPA and earning SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year honors in 2012 and 2013.
On the field, Rafaelle Souza set an exemplary standard for sportsmanship and competitive excellence for both current and future Ole Miss Rebels. A consummate inspiration for her teammates, Souza received numerous accolades throughout her 3 seasons with the Rebels. Souza earned All-SEC honors as both a Junior and a Senior, named an All-Region selection in 2012 and claimed second team All-American honors for 2013 from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). In addition, she notched an SEC leading 22 goals (3rd nationally) and an SEC leading 50 points (2ndnationally) in 2013. She finished her career at Ole Miss as the all-time leader in both career goals (44) and points (108) in just three seasons of competition. Souza wrapped up an outstanding 2013 campaign as a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy honoring the nation's top player and was selected 10th overall in the 2013 NWSL Draft.
In the strength & conditioning program, Souza was a tireless worker in her pursuit of improvement as an athlete. From the day she arrived, Souza consistently committed herself to doing everything asked of her, and then going above and beyond with tireless effort. Souza arrived in Oxford not speaking more than 2-3 words of English, but her intense desire to learn, understand and improve as a competitive athlete resulted in her learning every skill needed to excel in our training program through demonstration and feedback, while demonstrating a positive can-do attitude at all times. During her 3 seasons, she consistently lead the team in annual improvements in vertical jump, sprint times, cleans and squats.
In only 3 seasons with Ole Miss Soccer, Rafaelle Souza has demonstrated the work ethic, leadership, consistency of purpose & performance and academic achievement in keeping with the highest standards of our soccer program and our University. Her exemplary accomplishments are reflective of the same standard with which Hammer Strength seeks to meet the needs of collegiate strength & conditioning professionals throughout the country.