Cut from an old-school cloth and ready to deliver a blow on every play with his downhill, hard-nosed running style, Zach Zwinak emerged as one of the Big Ten's most productive running backs in 2012. The native of Frederick, Md., made big strides in the weight room during the off-season, and is among the top returning rushers in the conference. A prominent ball carrier in just nine games and a starter in just four, Zwinak reached 1,000 rushing yards in 2012, marking the eighth straight season a Nittany Lion has reached the 1,000-yard plateau. An honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection, Zwinak joined an elite group in 2012, becoming the 14th different Nittany Lion all-time to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a season (22nd season with a 1,000-yard rusher). What made Zwinak's season stand out is that the physical and punishing back had a total of three carries in the first three games. He gained 904 yards in the eight Big Ten games and averaged 113 yards per game, the fifth-highest total for conference games only. A straight-ahead runner, the Linganore High School product broke his career-high in rushing yards six times in the final nine games of 2012. With continued progress during training camp, the junior will play a central role in what is shaping up to be a dynamic backfield for the Nittany Lion offense in 2013. Zwinak is one of 12 returning Nittany Lions from Maryland.
2012 (Junior Season)
Zwinak appeared in all 12 games with four starts, earning his first career start at Purdue and starting the final four games of the season. He delivered the 22nd 1,000-yard rushing season in Penn State history and gave the Nittany Lions a 1,000-yard running back for the eighth consecutive year. An honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection, Zwinak became the 14th different Nittany Lion all-time to crack 1,000 yards in a season. After gaining a total of 96 yards in four non-conference games, he delivered 904 yards in eight Big Ten games for an average of 113.0 yards per game, the fifth-highest total in conference play. For the season, Zwinak gained 1,000 yards on 203 carries (4.9) and scored six touchdowns on the ground. He delivered the team's longest rush of the season, a startling 50-yard touchdown burst on the first series of the game at No. 18 Nebraska. Zwinak also caught 20 passes for 177 yards and a score, ranking fifth on the team in receptions. His 1,177 all-purpose yards led the squad. He broke his career-high in rushing yards six times in the final nine games. During the initial three contests of the season, Zwinak had three carries for two yards at Virginia. In the fourth game, against Temple, he broke out with 94 yards on 18 carries and one catch for 12 yards. One week later, he notched his first career 100-yard effort, carrying the ball 19 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the 35-7 win at Illinois to become the 85th Nittany Lion all-time to rush for 100 yards in a game. Zwinak's fourth-quarter workload against the Illini included five consecutive carries for 31 yards, capped by his second one-yard touchdown run of the game. In the 39-28 comeback win over No. 24 Northwestern, Zwinak re-wrote his career-high in the third straight game, gaining 121 yards on 28 carries, with one touchdown. He became just the eighth Nittany Lion to compile his first two 100-yard efforts in consecutive contests. Zwinak ran for 52 yards and had two catches for 24 yards in the 38-14 prime time win at Iowa. In his first career start, Zwinak's 134 yards on 21 carries (6.4 avg.) in the 34-9 victory at Purdue started a string of four consecutive 100-yard games to finish the season. He delivered another superb effort at No. 18 Nebraska, as he ran for 141 yards on 21 carries (6.7) and a touchdown. On the fourth play of the game, Zwinak's 50-yard burst up the middle for a score was Penn State's second-longest play from scrimmage and the longest rush of the season. He also made two catches for 37 yards, including a career long 31-yard effort, against the Huskers for 178 all-purpose yards. Zwinak gained 135 yards on 29 carries and scored a touchdown in the win over Indiana, adding a 16-yard touchdown grab. He reached the 1,000-yard mark for the season exactly on the dot thanks to a career effort in the thrilling 24-21 overtime win over Wisconsin. He re-wrote his career-high for the sixth time of the season with 179 yards on a career-best 36 carries and made three catches for five yards to produce a team season-high and personal career-high 184 all-purpose yards.
2011 (Sophomore Season)
In his first season on the field, Zwinak appeared in two games and gained considerable experience on the practice field. He rushed for seven yards on three carries, gaining six yards in the win over Eastern Michigan. He also recorded a carry in the season-opener against Indiana State.
2010 (Freshman Season)
Redshirt season. Zwinak suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in an October practice and underwent surgery soon thereafter, ending his season.
Zwinak was rated the nation's No. 2 prep fullback at Linganore High School for Coach Richard Conner. Zwinak was one of five future Nittany Lions selected to play in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He was named all-state after rushing for 1,447 yards as a junior. As a senior, he ran for 2,109 yards on 164 carries and scored 25 touchdowns. Zwinak was a prep teammate of former Nittany Lion offensive lineman Mike Lucian.
Full name is Zachary Thomas Zwinak. He is the son of B.J. Zwinak and Diane Thomas and has one younger sister, Lisa. His father was a defensive tackle at Virginia Tech, lettering from 1980-83, and his mother was a member of the North Carolina track and field team. Zwinak enjoys hunting, outdoor activities and playing video games in his spare time. He is studying criminology. Born July 29, 1992 in Alexandria, Va.