High school football: West’s Ziyad gets his shot

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 12, 2022

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA— There’s an admirable determination about Qadree Ziyad, a recent West Rowan graduate who will continue his football dreams at Bluefield University.

Ziyad basically missed all of his junior season with a collarbone injury.

He made up for lost time as a senior. He turned an impressive season as a defensive end, defeating blocks to make stops at the line of scrimmage on running plays and swooping off the edge with shocking speed to harass or sack surprised quarterbacks.

He was considered a potential star after a sophomore season in which he shined on jayvees and got some varsity action for the Falcons.

He ran some 4.7s in camps and his stock was rising before the collarbone injury set him back.

“That actually began when I was playing linebacker in a 7-on-7 drill,” Ziyad said. “I fell on my arm wrong, and my shoulder popped out of place for maybe 10 seconds. It kind of hurt, but, hey, I wanted to play. I figured it would be OK. I didn’t say anything.”

When the shoulder popped out for a second time during a West practice, Ziyad began to worry. This time he sought attention from the training staff.

The options weren’t encouraging for a young man who lives, eats and breathes football. He could sleeve it and play with some pain, or he could have surgery.

This was the 2020 season that would delayed for many long months by COVID. When West finally opened against Salisbury in late February, Ziyad was on the field, wearing the sleeve.

“I wanted to play badly, but the pain was too great,” Ziyad said. “I went and had the surgery.  I remember the date — March 24.”

Surgery and rebab is a tough gig even for college athletes and pros.

Imagine going through it as a high school student.

“You get hurt and miss a season in high school, it really is different,” West head coach Louis Kraft said. “A lot of times, at that age, that’s it. There’s no one there every day making sure you’re rehabbing. An athlete basically has to push himself to get back on the field, and that’s what Qadree did.”

He came back faster and better than he ever expected. He felt lucky to be healthy. He didn’t sulk over losing a year.

He was back on the field at 100 percent as a senior, looking for people to hit and looking for a college that might give him a chance, even with a film-less, stat-less junior year.

In an ideal world, Ziyad, who is 5-foot-10, 218 pounds, would be a linebacker, but the Falcons needed him at defensive end, so he stood tall at defensive end.

“I’ll be a linebacker at the next level, but you do what you can to help the team, so playing on the line wasn’t a hardship for me,” Ziyad said. “I actually enjoyed defensive end, using my quickness, getting after those quarterbacks. I had a good year.”

Ziyad believes his most impactful games were in the victories against Carson and Northwest Cabarrus. He also played very well in the loss to Mooresville.

“He’s really good in space,” Kraft said. “He had a heck of a senior season for us.”

“I had some good individual games as far as he number of tackles,” Ziyad added. “But the most fun game was North Lincoln. I don’t know what my stats were, but that was the most fun. Winning a road playoff game in overtime, that’s hard to beat.”

He did enough last fall that Bluefield, a school on the Virginia-West Virginia border that competes at the NAIA level, got excited about him, and a 3.5 GPA certainly helped.

He received an offer in February.

“When I visited up there, I liked the campus, but what really won me over was when the defensive coaches showed me film and showed me what my role would be if I went there,” Ziyad said. “They showed me all the things I’d be expected to do as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense.”

Ziyad, who plans to major in communications, will be heading to Bluefield with a West teammate. Running back Cayleb Brawley has a lot in common with Ziyad — not the prototype dimensions for college players, but a lot of heart and knowledge of how to play the game.

As a senior, while splitting time at running back with Limestone signee Akin Robinson, Brawley had 135 carries for 658 yards and seven touchdowns for a 7-4 team.

“Qadree and Cayleb weren’t just two of our better players, they were two of our better human beings,” Kraft said. “You’re pleased when kids like that get an opportunity.”