Carrollton (Ga.) tight end Zach Gordon is reporting to Wake Forest July 8 with his fellow newcomers who will comprise the Demon Deacon freshman class.
The Demon Deacons have been well known in the Jim Grobe era to heavily redshirt its newcomers, but the 6-5, 250-pound Gordon has a legitimate chance to buck the trend and work his way into the lineup once the season rolls around.
Last season's top two tight ends on the Wake Forest roster, Andrew Parker and Cameron Ford, have both exhausted their eligibility, so the position appears to be wide open heading into training camp.
While there are a couple of returning guys such as Neil Basford and walk-on Spencer Bishop that could challenge for playing time, the Demon Deacon coaches have told Gordon to prepare this spring and summer as if he's going to have a chance to be an immediate contributor.
"They (Wake's staff) want me to step in there and be the guy to be starting on Saturdays, which is kind of nerve-wracking in itself, but it also gives you that motivation to step in there and do your best and step in there and compete," Gordon told Deacons Illustrated over the weekend.
Wake's coaches know there's going to be an adjustment period for Gordon as he acclimates to the speed of the college game while also familiarizing himself with Wake Forest's offense.
They've sought to help him get ahead of the curve by giving him sound advice on things to work on to prepare himself for a possible fast track towards the field.
"There's certain things they (Wake's coaches) want me to be able to do and there's certain parts of the offense that they want me to contribute at, but as far as what they've told me, they want me to come in there from Day One to compete for the starting job. So hopefully I'll be able to get in there and show what I can do," he said.
As he has been finishing up his final semester of high school academic work at Carrollton High this spring, Gordon has been focusing on all-around physical enhancement through a grueling series of weight lifting, cross-training, and other types of drills.
"I've been doing a lot of core training---a lot of stuff just to get my entire body to a high strength level rather than one specific part. I'm trying to get my whole body as strong as I can get it, and also agility drills," he said. "I've been running sprints a lot, but also 'ladders,' and jumping on boxes---just agility workout stuff that will help me to get a quicker burst off the line and quicker cuts running routes and stuff like that."
It's a unique period of time for Gordon as he prepares to turn the page and move forward with his life and football career, and certainly there's some emotion involved when talking about leaving family and embarking on a challenging new journey.
But it's a challenging new journey that Gordon is eagerly anticipating.
"It's definitely a lot of emotion for me right now. I'm kind of saying my final goodbyes to everybody, and just physically getting to the point where I need to be at. But overall it's really just an awesome feeling," he said.
"I'm kind of nervous, but also just ready to start a new chapter, and honestly just ready to strap on the pads and get going (with the 2012 season)."
While he's still got to go out and prove himself to the Wake Forest coaches in training camp---and then subsequently on gamedays---the Demon Deacons appear to have potentially gotten a real player in Gordon.
And he's got a good chance to be one of the top impact rookies at his position in the ACC this coming fall if he indeed works his way into the rotation.
Gordon chose Wake Forest over a similarly renowned academic institution that has played some pretty good football the past few seasons.
"It was a lot of things (that went into my decision)," Gordon said. "It came down to Wake and Stanford for me. Both of those places were bar-none probably the greatest institutions I've ever visited."
"But I would say that Wake had the most family feel. All the coaches, they never put on a front. They never put on a business-type front. They were down-to-Earth, Christian guys that just love the game of football, and they're willing to work to win championships."
"So at the end of the day, it was just family atmosphere. And even though I'm going six hours away, it doesn't feel too, too far away. So it definitely just had that 'at home' feeling that won me from the start," Gordon continued.
He then told us he's been staying in touch with several of his new teammates.
As a group, the Wake Forest 2012 freshmen are focused on building off last season's turnaround season and help get Wake Forest back to the postseason this coming fall---whether it's redshirting and contributing on the Scout Team, or in Gordon's case, perhaps cracking the two-deep and playing right away.
"The incoming freshman class, we've talked together a lot and we see each other a lot, and we've hung out at (Wake) games and stuff like that," Gordon said. "We're ready to silence all the doubters. We're ready to prove ourselves, and get back to another bowl game."
"Last year we weren't able to finish (in the Music City Bowl loss to Mississippi State), but we were able to get back to where we needed to be, and I think building on that momentum, I think it created excitement throughout the entire Wake Forest community," Gordon said.
"It's just time to get out there and show people that the Demon Deacons can still play ball."
Stay tuned to Deacons Illustrated in the coming days for more updates on Wake Forest's Class of 2012 signees as they prepare to enroll at Wake and become official members of the Demon Deacon football program.