Jeremiah Zio came to Admiral Farragut to play basketball. After his freshman year at Ridgewood High, where he played on the varsity and averaged four points in 25 games, he transferred to AFA. At 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, he was hard to miss as he walked the halls in his uniform.
As a newcomer, he was often asked the question most people his size get asked: "Hey, do you play basketball?" But he also started getting asked another question that often gets asked at small, private schools like Admiral Farragut: "Hey, why don't you play football?"
Zio decided he would give football a try. During the spring of his sophomore year, he put on the pads and went to the practice field.
"The football coaches were always asking me why I didn't play football," Zio said. "They saw that I had potential and they always kept hammering me about playing. I was questioning it. I never really had the love for the game. I gave it a shot in my sophomore year and it started blowing up."
Blowing up as in getting noticed by college coaches. Indiana offered. Then schools like Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina and Louisville showed interest. The big schools liked his potential at defensive end. For the Blue Jackets, Zio's main job was to rush the quarterback. He had four sacks as a junior and eight this past season.
Despite just three years of varsity football, Zio turned into a top recruit. He visited Central Florida in November and committed to the Knights just after his visit. He remains committed to UCF and plans to attend summer school in June.
"It was close to home, so I didn't have to worry about my parents coming to see me," Zio said. "I also liked the atmosphere and the people who go there. It was the all-around experience."
With a football scholarship secured, Zio thought about giving up basketball. But the thought of sitting out his senior year kept eating at him. He'd played the sport since he was 10. He always thought that if he ever went to college, it would most likely be because of basketball.
After talking with his parents, as well as friends and former coaches, Zio decided he would play one more year of basketball. So far, that's turned out to be a good decision. The Blue Jackets entered the week 12-2 and just one game behind Class 4A, District 4 leader Seffner Christian.
Zio is a power forward who averages 10 points per game.
"Before the season, when I was still playing football, I was weighing my options," Zio said. "I was asking my mom and dad and former coaches about what would be the best idea. A lot of them were telling me to stay active and play basketball. And I still have some love for the game, so why not? It's my last year, so why not play?"
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Even though Zio has taken up football and bulked up as a defensive lineman, he hasn't forgotten how to move like a basketball player.
"He's a football player but he's very athletic for his size," Admiral Farragut basketball coach Julian Allen said after a recent win over Shorecrest. "He can move up and down the court very well."
Zio said he will not try to play basketball at UCF. He has been told by coaches that he will not redshirt as a freshman. He expects to vie for playing time right away.
UCF could use some help on defense. The Knights were 6-7 and gave up 370 yards a game.
"They've been talking about how they need me to be a part of their defense right away," Zio said. "We'll see what happens. If I'm ready to play then I'll play. Otherwise I wouldn't mind taking a redshirt year."