Interview with Dartmouth OL Zach Sammartino
Zach Sammartino was a multi-year starter for Dartmouth that made the All-Ivy League First Team and All-New England First Team in 2019. Sammartino played in the Small School Showcase and the College Gridiron Showcase.
Q: You were at the Small School Showcase, what was that experience like for you?
A: It was a lot of fun. It was kind of weird how I ended up getting there because I got invited to the main College Gridiron Showcase back in the fall. I got some advice and I was told I should turn it down because I was told that I shouldn’t pay for any of the all-star game camps or any of the all-star games, so I originally said no thanks to the college gridiron showcase. As I was looking around an agent and a couple of agents asked me if I had any invites to all-star games, so I told them that I got invited to the CGS but turned it down and they told me to try to get back into it. Mike Riddleman is from Pittsburgh like me so I tried to get back into the game and he told me he can get me in the Small School Showcase and if they perform well then we can bring up to ten guys up to the main showcase so we can give you the chance to play your way back up to where you were originally invited to/. I went down to Texas for two days for the small school showcase and luckily, I played well enough to get invited back to the main showcase. By time down there was awesome, I got in front of 15-160 scouts, get some interviews done, and just let the scouts see me in person.
Q: Was it difficult for you to try to balance the workload of football and attending an Ivy League School?
A: For me, no. For a lot of guys on our team though, it might have been. Dartmouth was actually the first scholarship offer I got, and the coach wanted me to re-take the SATs again. I remember talking to my parents and I was telling them I don’t think I’m an Ivy League guy, there’s no way I can get into this school. I did pretty good in high school, but I didn’t think I was on that level. I remember my dad telling me that it’s funny how God works, just humor him and see how it goes. Five/five-and-a-half years later I graduate from Dartmouth and I loved every second there. I think Ivy League is a lot harder to get into than it is to be in once you get there. In the classes you have to be smart, keep up with assignments, and you can’t miss anything but as long as you’re there and you’re putting in work, everyone seems to fair very well.
Q: What’s the off-field life like at Dartmouth?
A: Dartmouth is located in the absolute middle-of-nowhere New Hampshire. The closest major city is Boston which is about two hours away. There’s a lot of Greek life around there so you hang out with Greek life or you hang out with the football guys. There are a ton of things to do outdoors. During spring ball and summers when we’re up there in our free time me and buddies would go fishing a couple of times a week. There are some beautiful lakes, great fishing, and just a great outdoors scene. I know freshmen go hiking together, there’s rafting, kayaking, a ton of outdoor opportunities if you’re into that kind of stuff.
Q: What was it like to be a part of a program who improved significantly over the past three years under Buddy Teevens, who’s built the program up a ton since he came back to Dartmouth?
A: Coach T is a great man. Back when I was in high school and he came to visit me I expected him to ask me a lot of questions about football and whatnot, but we sat in the athletic office for over an hour and we didn’t talk one time about football. He wanted to know about me, my goals in life, my family life, and where I come from. One of the things that got to me on my official visit was that even though I only met him once and there like 30-40 guys that would go for official visits and he knew every single one of our names right away and he knew our parents’ names the whole way. Coach T and his wife have been great for us. He bounced around a bit between Dartmouth stints and right before I got there, they started to turn it around and in the last five years we’ve been the winningest program in the Ivy League. He’s done a great job turning around this program.
Q: What was your favorite team to go against in college?
A: For me it was Harvard. They used to be the best team in the Ivy League and in my true senior year we had a 15-game losing streak against them. We had five seniors starting on the offensive line and it was the last shot for my recruiting class to beat them and we ended up winning 24-17. That feeling was almost as good as winning the Ivy League title. This year we got to play them again and we came from behind to beat them again on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game from 50 yards out to win 9-6. We had some great games against them, so they were my favorite team to play against.
Q: What does the Cornell/Dartmouth rivalry mean to you?
A: I don’t view Cornell as a different rivalry from any other of the Ivy Leagues. Ivy League has a lot of in-state rivalries that are great, but Dartmouth doesn’t really have that. Being so far north in New Hampshire we aren’t really able to form a regional rivalry like that. For us, the last few years our rivals have been whoever we’re competing with for the Ivy League Championship.
Q: Are you a fan of the Office?
A: Yeah, I am.
Q: What are your thoughts on Andy Bernard as the Cornell man?
A: Oh man, I didn’t get into the Office until later than most people and I remember seeing that it was funny to see. Kelly Kapoor/Mindy Kaling is actually from Dartmouth too. That’s where she graduated from so it’s awesome to see a little Ivy League Pop Culture name drop.
Q: Are there any players that you try to model your game after? Current or retired
A: Even though I’m not a tackle, every year in camp we would watch Joe Thomas clips and recently they brought out Quenton Nelson clips, so I try to emulate some of my game from them.
Q: Do you have a favorite personal highlight from Dartmouth? On or off the field
A: My favorite play was against Cornell this year in the second or third series and I had one of the more violent pancakes and it felt like one of the better pancakes I’ve had in my college career. As a team highlight it would be winning my second Ivy League Championship this year against Brown. We were down pretty much the whole game and had a big fourth-quarter comeback to win the game 29-23.
Q: What do you think sets you apart from other offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft?
A: I think when you watch my film, I always keep my feet moving and I always run through my blocks. I think my ability to keep my legs driving and stay moving gives me the opportunity to make a play no matter what’s happening on the field.
Q: With the family bloodline that you have, do you feel an added motivation to succeed and be live up to your uncles who played college football or great uncle Bruno who holds the record for longest championship reign and is a WWE Hall of Famer?
A: I don’t feel added pressure but every man in my family has played sports, so I probably got some good genes passed down through that. Uncle Bruno’s story and career is just amazing and I’m not sure that’s one that is ever going to be topped by anyone. I don’t try to compare myself. I’m just trying to be the best version of myself I possibly can be. I used to have friendly competitions in the weight room with my dad when I was first getting into it but that’s about it, I don’t feel pressure or anything from the family name.
Q: Do you have any plans post-football? I know that you were a part of the Future Business Leaders of America and majored in Religion, any plans?
A: Right now, I’m just focused on my football career and trying to make it as far and long as I can. After that I’ll worry about my degree, but for now I’m just focused on football.