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Armwood’s Zilbar flourishing at Platteville

Posted Jun 13, 2012 by Bill Ward

Updated Jun 13, 2012 at 05:26 PM

It’s not easy for most teenagers to pull up stakes and head to a college far from home, but former Armwood linebacker Jacob Zilbar has done it and flourished.

Zilbar, the Hawks’ leading tackler on their 2010 state runners-up squad, has just finished his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, a Division III school that plays in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Not only did he make the school’s Dean’s List with a 3.8 GPA in his Pre-Med major, Zilbar cracked the Pioneers’ starting lineup for the last six games of the season.

Zilbar had offers from larger colleges, including from schools within Florida. But he said the chance to play as a freshman was a big lure for him to attend Platteville.

‘‘I could have gone to FAU, FIU or UCF and worked my way up to playing,’’ Zilbar said. “But at the end of the day, I just want to play football. I’d rather play the game most of my college career than watch it from the sidelines.’‘

In the six games he started, Zilbar recorded 44 tackles, two interceptions and one sack, along with forcing two fumbles from his outside linebacker position. He played inside linebacker for the Hawks, where he had a team-best 131 tackles. He expects to return to that spot this fall for UW-P, which finished second in the WIAC last season. He says the guidance he received from Hawks defensive coordinator Matt Thompson prepared him well for the college game.

‘‘Coach Thompson put me a step ahead with all the reads he taught me at Armwood,’’ Zilbar said. “When I got to college, it wasn’t a big shock for me to see all of that defensively. I was ready to handle it.”

For his impressive debut for the Pioneers, the 6-foot, 215-pound Zilbar was the only freshman named to the entire all-WIAC team, which he made at honorable mention. He is also the lone Floridian on the UW-P roster but says several recruits from the state are expected to join the Pioneers, who last season finished 7-3.

“Looking back now, I made the right choice to go Platteville,” Zilbar said. “But it defeinitely wasn’t an easy choice. It’s a pretty small town compared to Tampa. There’s not even a mall there. But any school and any town is what you make of it.”

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