RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WSAV) – The Richmond Hill Wildcats football team has a tall task ahead of them next year as they move into Class 7A, the biggest classification in Georgia.
In order to have success there, they’ll need to rely on their emerging young core, which is comprised of players like Thomas Zimbalatti.
Zimbalatti just finished a successful freshman season that saw him get plenty of playing time as well as interest from major Division I programs.
We caught up with Zimbalatti to talk about the offers he’s gotten, what his goals are for the future and how he sees Richmond Hill’s transition to Class 7A going.
Transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and syntax.
Q: Where have you visited so far?
A: I went to Florida State for my very first one. I went to South Carolina, Georgia, UNC-Charlotte, Auburn, and I’ve also been to Georgia Southern.
Q: Are there any that felt different or stood out in any way?
A: Georgia and UNC-Charlotte were the best ones so far. When we went to Georgia, everybody gave you a lot of one-on-one time. All the coaches came and said ‘what’s up, how are you doing?’ It was just really good.
Q: Georgia’s put a lot of linemen into the NFL. Some of those other programs you mentioned have as well. It’s a long way down the road, but the prospect of playing in the pros, is that influencing your thinking about where you want to go?
A: Yes sir, most definitely.
Q: What do you have coming up this summer?
A: We’re starting spring ball on Thursday at Richmond Hill. Definitely getting ready for that, can’t wait. This summer, we’re planning on going to some college camps like Mizzou, Iowa State, Florida State and Georgia. We’re planning on doing a lot of college camps this year.
Q: At those camps, is there a particular area of your game that you’re hoping to improve?
A: Definitely my footwork.
Q: Is there any thought of doing defensive line at some point or are you sticking with the O-Line?
A: We’ve thought about defensive line, but I think I really belong on the offensive line. Right now, I’m at guard, which I like a lot, but I think I can possibly be pretty good at center. I prefer right guard because I feel like I get a better pull and my down blocks are a bit stronger.
Q: Any timeline for announcing a Top 5 or Top 7?
A: Not yet, no.
Q: It seems like Richmond Hill started to really gel toward the end of last year. What did you find in that last month or so?
A: I feel like the last month, we really came together as a team and we started working harder and you could really tell the difference. People really wanted to keep going.
Q: How do you carry that into spring ball? What, to you, would define a successful spring season?
A: We need some good leaders on the team. I’m trying to step into that role. We have a very young team, so we need to get everybody on the same page.
Q: Players talk about filling that leader role a lot. What does that mean to you? What separates a leader from just a good player?
A: A good player is someone that just follows around everybody else. They do the bare minimum of what they’re supposed to do. A leader is somebody that goes, and, like, during stretches gets everybody fired up and makes things exciting.
Q: When you think about the advice that coaches and mentors have given you about being a leader, is there one piece of advice that stands out?
A: Don’t skip out on reps. Don’t let somebody take your reps, you always want to get them
Q: What are your goals next season, both for the team and for yourself?
A: Goal for us next year is to break even in our record, to have a good season, especially with the Class 7A coming. Some personal goals for me is to work on my squat and my bench.
Q: That promotion to 7A makes your schedule and travel a lot more difficult. How much of a topic of conversation is that around Richmond Hill and how do you think the team will have to adjust?
A: I think it’s a big adjustment but we’re going to handle it well. We’re a very young group and we’re very excited to play ball.
Q: Finally, I met your dad before and I know the parents are the ones that have to do a lot of the driving to these camps. How instrumental have your parents and your support system been?
A: They’ve been amazing. My coaches set up something for me and asked me if I could be there tomorrow. My dad said “yeah, let’s go.”