category: Alumni

Super Bowl success still motivates Carson-Newman alum as NFL training camps open

Zach Witherspoon, a 2014 alumnus and member of the Los Angels Rams training staff, says that what he learned at Carson-Newman continues to benefit him in his work.

As NFL training camps open for business, one particular Carson-Newman alum is ready to get to work, easily motivated by the previous season.

Zach Witherspoon can describe the way it feels to win the Super Bowl because he’s lived it. The 2014 Carson-Newman graduate was there to see his Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, earning the 2022 Vince Lombardi Trophy.

According to Witherspoon, the best description that comes to mind is a combined feeling of experiencing the happiest moment of your life and at the same time watching people you love and care about experiencing the happiest moment of their lives.

An alum of Carson-Newman’s exercise science program, Witherspoon serves as performance science/associate strength and conditioning coordinator for the Rams.

“I grew up in Oak Ridge and played football and ran track in high school. After I graduated, there weren’t too many offers, but I went on a couple of visits,” he said.

He chose Carson-Newman because it was not only close enough that he could still be home with his family, but he also got the chance to play football for the Eagles with his best friend from childhood, as well as a couple of high school friends.

When asked about his college days, it only takes a moment for him to cue up memories of playing at Burke-Tarr Stadium under legendary Eagles Coach Ken Sparks.

“One of my best memories is my sophomore year when we made a deep run to the playoffs,” he said. “I also have amazing memories with friends who I built lifelong friendships with at Carson-Newman.”

During his time as a student, Zach said he was nurtured to always go the extra mile and learn beyond the classroom. “It’s a skill that I apply in my day-to-day and it’s been very helpful,” he said.

Before his senior year he interned with Exos, a personal training company in Los Angeles, gaining experience and realizing that working in a team setting rather than one-on-one was a better fit for him.

He immediately got into the college scene after his internship and spent several years working at New Mexico State University.

“That is where I met my lovely wife,” he said. “We came up to Carson-Newman about three years ago, and I got to show her around campus and the football field. It was an amazing experience.”

Though he’s not always in the spotlight, Witherspoon describes his career as an act of service and support. “Our job is to help the athletes do what they do best,” he said. “After my time at New Mexico State, I was lucky to get offered a job at the LA Rams,” he said, joining the organization in 2021.

What Witherspoon might call luck, many might see as the product of determination and hard work of looking to continually gain experience in a field he loves. And for those looking to pursue the same area of study, Witherspoon advises exercise science students to always work hard and be patient because it pays off. “Things will not always turn out how you want,” he said, “but they will always turn out how you need.”

Preseason for Witherspoon and the Rams kicks-off on Aug. 13 as they take on the Los Angeles Chargers.

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