Zane Rankin makes watching football fun. The Lamar quarterback was one of the most highlight worthy players on the field during the weekend in which all seven state football championship games were contested at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl at CSU-Pueblo.
This season, he has shown to be a special player in all of Class 2A. His ability to improvise and somehow come away with a positive result led Lamar to the 2A state championship game. It had been 57 years since Lamar had last played for a football tile.
And Rankin was a big part of the reason they played for the title and even had a shot at winning it. For that effort, he was named the 2A player of the year.
More of a gunslinger than a traditional quarterback, Rankin’s biggest strength is ability to escape bad situations, even if it gives the Lamar coaching staff a scare in the process.
“There have been a lot of times where I’ll snap the ball and run to one side of the field and turn backwards and run 10 more yards to the other side of the field and throw the ball away or finally get up field,” Rankin said. “You can just tell all those guys are over there holding their breath, hoping I don’t get hit for a 20-yard loss.”
The crazy thing is that even if that were to happen, Rankin might be one of the most mentally tough players in the entire state, regardless of classification.
That was evident all the way back in a Week 1 win over Elizabeth. Rankin didn’t overly thrive in the passing game, going just 8-for-17 for 164 yards and a touchdown. He also threw three interceptions.
But at no point did he seem phased. He broke the huddle with the same energy all night and fully expected to deliver a positive result on each snap that he took.
“He has a true gunslinger mentality when you think about NFL quarterbacks and quarterbacks that just go out there and live in the moment,” coach Jason Tice said. “They don’t dwell in the past. They just focus on making a big play on the next play.”
He battles. It’s something that’s ingrained in him and it’s not exclusive to football. Rankin claimed the 3A 132-pound wrestling state title in 2018 and 2019 and when football season began this year, he began playing both sides of the ball.
“That was the first time in his career he had to play full-time both ways and a lot of special teams,” Tice said. “The physical exhaustion that he and some of his teammates would experience, I think being a quarterback and being that exhausted was a big challenge for him. But he’s been there before.”
Just being there before isn’t enough. His whole style of competition is about having been there and learning to turn adversity into success when things aren’t going his way.
“Things aren’t always going to go your way,” Rankin said. “There’s always going to be that adversity and it’s how you choose to handle that adversity and what you do with that whether you break down and quit or keep going. That’s something I’ve always tried to do.”
He tries on a single football play, through the course of a full game or wrestling match, or just in life as he and his friends have tried to navigate the trickiness of a COVID-19 fueled year. It’s how he got Lamar into the state title game and it’s how he’ll attack the rest of his life from here on out. And it’s going to be a fun ride.