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Temple’s Zack Mesday has persevered, and it’s paying off in a big way

Mesday began his Temple career as a walk-on and, after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, he was awarded a scholarship.

Temple's Zach Mesday in game action against South Florida Saturday Nov. 17, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pa. ( H. Rumph Jr / For the Inquirer )
Temple's Zach Mesday in game action against South Florida Saturday Nov. 17, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pa. ( H. Rumph Jr / For the Inquirer )Read moreH. Rumph Jr

Few people in the Temple football program will have more to be thankful for on Thanksgiving than Zack Mesday.

Last week, the former walk-on — who began as a linebacker, but transitioned to defensive end — was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. And with that came the announcement that he would be put on scholarship beginning next semester.

Before that announcement, Mesday was planning on being introduced with the seniors on Senior Day, before Temple's 27-17 comeback win over South Florida on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.

"I was prepared for that being my last home game," Mesday said after the victory, in which he recorded a season-high four tackles.

For somebody who began at the bottom and had to recover from two ACL surgeries on his right knee, Mesday is grateful for his opportunity.

"I think it is finally my time to take over and help out on the defensive line," he said. "I have always been a guy who has learned from the older dudes."

Mesday was a standout at Nottingham (N.J.) High, where he helped lead his team to the Central Jersey Group 2 title as a senior in 2012. That season, he recorded 19 1/2 sacks.

He then spent a prep school season at Canterbury School in Florida, tore his right ACL in each of his first two seasons at Temple, and took quite a while just to step on the field.

His first action came in 2016 when he appeared in one game, against Cincinnati. Last season, he appeared in six games, but didn't record a tackle.

This season has been a different story.

Though undersized at 6-foot and 230 pounds, Mesday has a motor that won't quit. He has appeared in all 11 games for the Owls, who are 7-4, 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference. They close the regular season 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Connecticut (1-10-, 0-7).

Mesday has recorded 25 tackles, including five tackles for loss and three sacks.

"We were all pulling for him and felt he deserved it," redshirt sophomore defensive end Quincy Roche said about Mesday's scholarship. "Coming from a walk-on to scout team to finally getting in the rotation and making plays, I really think he deserved it."

Mesday was recruited to Temple by then-assistant coach Mike Siravo, who is now at Baylor under coach Matt Rhule, the former Owls coach.

"When I came here, coach Siravo told me, 'We think you are good enough to play here, but you have to prove yourself,' " Mesday recalled. "I had the two surgeries and at first didn't have the ability to prove myself."

Last season was the time to show he could get on the field and stay there. This year, he has taken his game to a new level.

Temple needed Mesday after an earlier injury to defensive end Dana Levine, who missed four games, but has since returned.

"He has been awesome," coach Geoff Collins said of Mesday. "The culture of the program is so strong. He has really played really well all year and stepped up, and whether he is on scholarship or not on scholarship, he is going to give his all for this university."

For Mesday, perseverance clearly paid off.

“He just put his head down and worked,” safety Delvon Randall said. “He didn’t say anything, minded his business, and you can see how much he has improved.”