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Bob Zeman
Bob Zeman 1961.jpg
No. 34, 46
Position:Defensive back
Personal information
Born:(1937-02-22)February 22, 1937
Geneva, Illinois
Died:May 3, 2019(2019-05-03) (aged 82)
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
High school:Wheaton (IL)
NFL Draft:1959 / Round: 10 / Pick: 119
AFL draft:1960 / Round: 2 Pick: 1 (by the Los Angeles Chargers)
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Player stats at PFR

Edward Robert Zeman[1] (February 22, 1937 – May 3, 2019)[2] was an American football defensive back who played six seasons in the American Football League from 1960 to 1966.

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We can talk about one thing that just keeps everybody going on Fridays in the fall. It's Friday Night Football, the night after trick-or-treating, but it was nothing but tricks, ugly tricks discovered today at the Marion County football field in Jasper. Sequatchie Valley football is a hidden gem I would say. Nothing does it for me like a Marion-South Pittsburg game. That on a Friday night when there's standing room...only, 8 to 15 rows deep around the outside of the fence, that does it. This, though, was to a whole new level. I would call it one of the stupidest scandals I've seen in high school football. Now am i calling them the stupidest people? No, but they made some stupid decisions. I started getting worried Saturday after the game before and actually this was at that time this game was played last the 10th game of the season. I don't know how many years later but Don Grider came up, and he talked to me about moving that. He said it hurt them before about you get so high and spent so much energy concentrating and winning trying to win this game that the playoff game is kind of like a letdown. But I can tell you from being a coaching both of those games the the Marion-South Pittsburg is way more than the McCallie-Baylor, um. The other thing that I'll say on that is this: I think that Marion-South Pittsburg understand that game is important, but at the same point that's that's not the season goal. Well I think the game that stands out the most to me was the '94 game at South Pittsburg which was a 6-0 win for Marion County. Eric Westmoreland intercepted a pass and ran it back for the touchdown, and that was the only score in that game, and if you go back and watch that now, you see then that there was no doubt Eric Westmoreland was going to not only play college football at a high level but that he would be an NFL guy one day because it was still I think one of the greatest high school football efforts in plays I've ever seen. This was at South Pittsburgh I remember the flags and the town just completely shut down and the buzz as you got closer to the stadium. It was college football but not. I mean it was an SEC game but it wasn't because there were only 20,000. I don't know the exact numbers. but it wasn't a hundred and fifty thousand but it felt like it. The thing that that that I loved the most about it was that it was gonna be a packed house. There was gonna be people standing on the fence. There was going to be people, so, so it it makes it as electrifying as all the great games that I've been able to coach in. The fact that those two towns combined have what six, seven thousand people maybe, and you're gonna put 10,000 people show up every year for that game? They will not use the word Marion in South Pittsburg. It's Jasper. I've heard stories of decades ago football fields the grass being lit on fire doused in gasoline matches thrown on I mean torched. Gosh. I think there was a couple of years there in the 50s maybe two years where this rivalry didn't get played because it had gotten so heated the last time that it had played there was actually a two-year hiatus. My year one, it was freezing cold. We had sleet. We had rain. We had wind, high temperatures. The lights go out at halftime. More than once, a group of their kids came down to our school and tried to vandalize it a little bit. They tried to paint "Pirates" on there with Roundup, and then one year they tore down the goal posts. I've heard stories and and I witnessed a game and I said anything is really possible here. I mean you hear stuff that I don't want to repeat. I do think it's fans it's it's great because they do go too far with it. You know and I say go to far but but make it a great rivalry. People pronounce South Pittsburg, South "Pitch"burg from down here. South "Pitch"burg. It borders embarrassing at times, but it walks that line. I mean when you win that one does it feel a little bit sweeter? Absolutely. You know, I I'd be a liar to say any different. It was for the most part you know I think it's always been a pretty good natured sort of rivalry. I remember seeing it on Twitter. Well, I learned about it first on Facebook. Well I mean of course I'm going to know a little bit because my in-laws are from Marion County and my wife went to school there. I remembered being chaotic because it was okay this is now crossed the line of because of the type of words they used. And there's been pranks that have played and certainly you go talk to people that were a part of this in the 50s and the 60s and the 70s and and even into the 80s and they'll tell you you know about the pranks that were played. My initial thought was the players didn't do this. I didn't think the players would do something like that. I thought someone took it too far, and it was probably a student. I didn't say any of this on air, but that's initially what you think. You know the one thing about all of this that I hate, and the one thing that gets overlooked is when you have two communities like that with so much pride and so much passion, when something like this happens, people immediately start to talk. There were all sorts of rumblings when a story like this happens there's so many people saying, pointing fingers or saying this is what happened that's what happened I think it was them. So, you sit there as a news organization knowing you can't go with any of it. You had a lot of kids from South Pittsburg high school who were unfairly named in the community as being a part of this, and those were kids that are 17 years old, you know, high school seniors or whatever that were at home studying for a test the night before, were at...a pep rally or a bonfire or whatever the night before. Because none of it is solid, and if you go with one it's probably the wrong one. Because there's thirty stories out there, so you just sit there and you just collect info behind the scenes. But for a couple of days there, their names were being circulated. I've always thought that was extremely unfair. But, I thought, this is just it goes to show how crazy I mean when I said it borderlines embarrassing, that jumped over the line that was embarrassing. And it was later that day when I had talked to someone that that I trusted that had knowledge of the investigation that was going on who told me then, "Hey I think this is you know this was an inside job." NEWS REPORTER: School officials tell me that a baseball coach an assistant football coach Michael Schmidt has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Considering the past between these two schools, considering what they've been through and the the back-and-forth, yeah, I thought it was another embarrassing moment leading up to a game night, and it was over and done with until the next time something dumb happened like that. That's a tough thing to swallow. You know, that's as tough of a thing to swallow as it is to think that, you know, your archrival, but yet a program that you have a ton of respect for, could do something like that. A laughable moment when I found out it was the coaches of Marion County. Not laughable as in funny, but embarrassing. I mean, again, the last thought on my list was they would sabotage their own locker room, their own field house. That was the last thought. Why would somebody do that? All the pieces of it as you kind of heard, you know, like can that really be true? You know, you almost felt like it wasn't real. Not only was it the talk of Not only was it the talk of of this area, but you know you had Keith Olbermann talking about it. You had, you know, it got national attention. Unfortunately, again, this I've always said, this is a rivalry that deserves to have that kind of attention. It deserves to be on TV. It deserves to have attention heaped on it, just not that kind of attention. But it wasn't. It was our own people and it was ridiculous because you don't need any motivation to play South Pittsburg. You know the puzzling thing about all this was always: okay so it's a it's a motivational ploy? Why do you need to do that to motivate for that game? You know that game in and of itself is enough of a motivator. What do you hope to accomplish by pulling something like that? It just doesn't make sense. The day that the news broke that it was the coaches I mean it was it was a churning machine at that point, and then all the other storylines started to fade away, and we started learning more and more and more. The credit card they used led them to surveillance video of them buying orange spray paint. In the text messages--we're now seeing text messages. One of them said we don't need to do this. He knew it wasn't a good idea, but they still did it. When it was made public they didn't really didn't really look good. You knew at that point, not only that it was an inside job, but you knew all the, you knew everybody that was involved at that point. I'll be honest there I think stuff like that happens more often than we think not the playbook stealing again that crosses a line too embarrassing. By that time you knew every play every bit of personnel, everything you wanted to know about South Pittsburg, and more than you probably wanted to know. You didn't need to do any of that stuff. They, these two teams have played for 642 years if my math is right. You know every play they run they know every play you run, and it's pretty simple a lot of the times, but their betters are better than your betters. Vic Grider's a pretty good coach. I don't...Vic has never been one that has ever been real secretive about what he what he does. You, you watch the film you're you're gonna get a good dose of who they are and what they are. I don't think that stealing a playbook is necessarily going to give anybody an advantage on on either side. That paying a college player to...that's dumb because they knew it was against the rules, but I don't, I don't, that's not. That doesn't carry the same weight That's in the rulebook. You know...and it should be. I mean there is a reason why that know player safety, insurance purposes, and I mean there's plenty of reasons why that is not a good idea. But the competitive edge to bring in a former player who maybe has more speed because you're about to face speed. That's a competitive edge and I don't put that on the same scale of stealing a playbook or vandalizing your own locker room to gain a competitive edge with slurs. You know I think you're gonna have certain individuals that are always going to look to try to get that whatever that advantage may be. Winning is the name of the game you can, you know, as a coach that's going to be how you're judged, and and whether or not you get to keep a job often times is whether or not you win. It's a it's a credit to the people of that community because they weren't about to be defined by the stupidity of those decisions and they weren't defined by it. 2013 certainly took it off the rails, and hopefully it has gotten back. I really don't know if it was over Christmas break or like Martin Luther vacation that's kind of soon after that. Somewhere in there I got a phone call from the principal, and he asked me if I would want to talk. When you come in as a first-year coach and you're taking over a program I think not having spring practice is a, that's a bit of a hit. I think there's a lot of people, and I got the sense of this, that really believed the guy that was the coach there before was the coach for that place and that his style and my new style didn't necessarily geehaw. If you started on one side of the ball, you were a reserve on the other side for the most part. A lot of people didn't believe in that philosophy. Knowing I and and I had serious questions come to me about it. SIDELINE REPORTER: You know, Marion County is pretty excited to be here - nobody expected them to be here. They had spring practice, no summer workouts because of what happened with the previous staff. COMMENTATOR: OH MY GOD LOVE THE CALL DOWN THE SIDELINE BLOCKER UP FRONT What people don't know is all five of the linemen left. "Second down and goal looking for the end zone, touchdown!" Seven of the 11 starters on defense were gone. "It'll go to Zeman, spins his way into the end zone!" What people seem to remember was yes we did have Blake back, but really there wasn't many juniors that were upcoming seniors. "Somehow a 2nd mysteriously dissapeared. Sampson on the throw, a receiver is there, Zeman catches it, Touchdown!" That comes down to what they had bought into of training, you know. and so it's not not any coincidence that the morning of that game, if you were to have a video of first period, Those kids were killing it in the weight room And if you want to be more than average you got to separate yourself on a daily basis. So one of the things that that we did was, I completely took everything out of the field house, and so when I say everything I mean the carpet, the lockers, the weights, the desks. We scrubbed it. We laid new carpet down We repainted the walls. We put new signs up. I mean we redid everything. They weren't at the height of their strength when we played them. I don't know. I mean they were pretty good. They went third, fourth round of the playoffs. I was very fortunate as a coach, you know. We were 2-0 versus them. I think year 2, we had the greatest win in numbers that Marion has ever had in that series, so so it was, you know, it was great, but but I would say I think we had success in that because from day one that wasn't our goal. The people that orchestrated that paid no price, and when I say paid no price, yeah okay. Did they go to another job? Yeah, but did they lose money? Did they lose time? Did they lose retirement? Absolutely not. I think everybody deserves a second chance and and I hate it for those guys. I hate it for their families. I will never say they don't deserve another opportunity because if they can prove to society that they've changed and they're not going to do something idiotic like that again, yes, in my book, you deserve a second chance.


Playing career

Early years

Zeman attended Wheaton Warrenville South High School in Wheaton, Illinois, the home town as legendary collegiate and professional running back Red Grange.[3] Also himself originally a running back, Zeman managed to break several of the "Galloping Ghost's" high school records.[3] He was later inducted into its Hall of Fame.[4]

Wisconsin Badgers

Zeman played on both sides of the ball at Wisconsin.[5] However, he never eclipsed 600 yards of rushing,[6] playing mostly defense. After playing in the Rose Bowl his senior year, Zeman met with executives in Los Angeles.[7]

Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers

Zeman was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 1960 AFL draft.[7] Zeman was part of a stellar defense nicknamed the "Seven Pirates" — a squad which intercepted an AFL record 49 passes during the 1961 season.[3]

Denver Broncos

In his first season with the Denver Broncos, Zeman garnered a Pro Bowl selection on the strength of six interceptions; one was returned for a touchdown.[8]

Second stint with San Diego

Zeman injured his knee at the end of the 1966 season tackling Mike Garrett. He never returned to professional football.[9]

Coaching history

College coaching

A couple years after retiring as a player, Zeman started to coach at the college level. His first stop was Northwestern, where he coached defensive backs in 1968 and 1969.[10] He then went and coached at his alma mater Wisconsin in 1970.[11]

Professional coaching

He then coached for the Oakland Raiders between 1971 and 1977, and won Super Bowl XI with the team.[12] Zeman then coached with a team he had played for, the Denver Broncos, between 1978 and 1982.[13] He spent the following year as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.[14] His later stops included the Los Angeles Rams, scouting for some teams, and stints with Mike Holmgren in both San Francisco and Seattle.


In 2017 Zeman, along with other players from the inaugural year, presented the Chargers organization with a signed ball for its move back to the city of Los Angeles.[15]

See also


  1. ^ "Bob Zeman". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c "AFL All Stars," Sports All Stars 1963 Pro Football. New York: Maco Publishing, 1963; pg. 68.
  4. ^ "Tigers found a group in a class by themselves -- Daily Herald". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  5. ^ Telander, Rick. "THE AUTHOR GIVES BELATED THANKS TO THE FINEST COACH HE EVER HAD". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  6. ^ "Bob Zeman College Stats | College Football at". College Football at Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  7. ^ a b "Bob Zeman – August 21, 2003 | Tales from the AFL". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  8. ^ "Bob Zeman Stats |". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  9. ^ Dwyre, Bill (2013-02-02). "Big holes in the NFL safety net for former players like Bob Zeman". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  10. ^ Telander, Rick (2014-12-17). Like a Rose: Life Lessons from a Training Camp with Hank Stram and the Kansas City Chiefs. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781613217573.
  11. ^ "The University of Wisconsin Collection: Wisconsin football facts for 1970 and athletic review of 1969-70 school year: 1970 Wisconsin football facts and University of Wisconsin athletic review 1969-1970". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  12. ^ "Super Bowl XI Rosters & Coaching Staffs". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  13. ^ "Bob Zeman".
  14. ^ "Bob Zeman Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks |". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  15. ^ DiGiovanna, Mike. "Chargers make cornerback Jason Verrett rest his injured left knee, which is still not 100%". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
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