Preston Zandier joins list of Thomas Jefferson Big 33 players
Sunday, February 28, 2021 | 9:01 AM
Preston Zandier has joined an exclusive club as a senior member of the Thomas Jefferson football program.
A sturdy 6-foot-2, 200-pound wide receiver/linebacker and Youngstown State recruit, Zandier has been selected to participate in the 2021 Big 33 Football Classic.
He is one of two players labeled as “athletes” on the Pennsylvania squad, along with Central Valley’s Myles Walker, a wide receiver/defensive back and Akron recruit.
Zandier is the 20th football player from Thomas Jefferson to be chosen for the prestigious all-star event. The Jaguars have been represented by 15 gridders in the Big 33 since the turn of the century.
“Being selected to play in the Big 33 game is a huge honor,” Zandier said. “Getting a chance to compete with the top players in Pennsylvania is something I never thought would happen and I’m truly blessed.”
TJ coach Bill Cherpak was thrilled that Zandier was chosen for this year’s all-star contest, which will be held at 1 p.m. May 31 at Central Dauphin’s Landis Field near Harrisburg. Pennsylvania will face an all-star team from Maryland for the ninth consecutive year.
Zandier, a three-sport standout at TJ, was among 19 WPIAL players named to participate in this year’s Big 33 game.
“I am very excited and happy for Preston to be selected for the Big 33,” Cherpak said. “I played in the game in 1985 and still have great memories from it. It is a great honor to be selected for such a prestigious game.
“Preston has worked hard to earn all of his accolades and accomplishments. He has been a leader and great role model for our younger players. In his four seasons at TJ, he was part of three WPIAL championships and two state championships and a record of 51-4. I would say that is a pretty good high school career.”
Zandier has a rich football heritage. His brother, TJ grad Zane Zandier, is a 6-3, 230-pound all-conference senior linebacker at Virginia who has been training in Nashville for his upcoming pro day.
His dad Rick was a safety at Indiana (Pa.) and two uncles, Michael Reinhart and Todd Fedak, played at Cal (Pa.) and Carnegie Mellon, respectively.
Preston Zandier finished with 76 receptions, 1,246 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career. He also was a terror on defense, racking up 78 total tackles the past two seasons.
He was named to the Class 4A all-state team in 2020 in a vote of Pennsylvania football writers, as well as the Trib 25 football all-star team. He also was chosen first-team all-conference on offense and defense.
Zandier, whose sister Reis played volleyball at Youngstown State from 2016-18, ranked third among WPIAL receivers last season with 47 catches for 718 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He also had 34 tackles on defense, including eight against Jersey Shore in the PIAA Class 4A championship game. TJ defeated the previously undefeated District 4 champs, 21-14, on Nov. 28 at Hersheypark Stadium.
The coronavirus pandemic made 2020 a football season unlike any other, but the Jaguars were able to win their 10th WPIAL title and a record-setting fifth PIAA championship.
“This year was crazy,” Zandier said. “There were so many obstacles our team faced with covid and having so many new guys stepping into key roles. We battled to find ways to win any way possible.
“Being able to experience three WPIAL and two state championships in my TJ football career is something very few athletes get to experience, and I’m so happy I was a part of it. Playing TJ football has been a huge part of my life, and I’m extremely grateful for it. Countless memories and meeting my closest friends in the process is something not a lot of kids get to experience. It has given me debt-free college and showed me what is takes to be mentally and physically unbeatable.”
Zandier was recruited by Youngstown State to play an outside linebacker position.
“I’m excited for the new culture at YSU with the new coaches,” Zandier said, “and being able to focus on one side of the ball. I’m not ready to give the sport up yet, so being able to play for another four or five years is a blessing.”
Zandier manned an OLB spot at for the Jaguars for three years before stepping in at inside linebacker for his senior season.
“He will fit in great at YSU,” Cherpak said. “I know he will continue to work hard and be successful.”
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