A Thank You Letter to Zander Diamont

Football vs. Nebraska, 10/15/16, Evan De Stefano

Zander Diamont stood for more than the average football player. He was electrifying and hopeful. He defied logic and made you believe. Most importantly, he never strayed away from who he was.

Zander Diamont is and will always be my favorite college athlete of all-time.

My name is Eddie Cotton, and I’m a 5’5” Jewish kid from Long Island, New York. I’ve loved sports since the day I was born, but my affinity to sports will always be defined by my inability to play them. I tried soccer and failed because I was too slow. I tried basketball and failed for obvious reasons. I tried baseball and made a costly error to cost my 6th grade little league team the championship, so in turn, I failed.

I’ve tried almost every sport, even badminton, and have failed at every single one. There was only one sport that I never even got to try.

In 3rd grade, I didn’t understand the clear and obvious concept of being undersized. I couldn’t really grasp the fact that I wasn’t like other kids.  With that said, I asked my dad if could play football.  The response was abrupt and quick.

“No.”

My dad was smart. I’m tiny. If I ever stepped foot on a field, there would be a risk with every moment that I could be severely injured.

So, I never got to give football a try.  I never got to live out my dream of replicating the play of New York Jets greats like Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin. But, at least I never failed either.

Zander Diamont could have easily had that same conversation with his father in 3rd grade.  In fact, I bet he did. I bet 3rd grade Zander Diamont told his dad that “No,” was not an available answer. I say that because nothing defines Zander Diamont more than defying doubters.

I know that there is clearly a major difference between my stature and the stature of Mr. Diamont, but there is still no arguing the fact that Zander is undersized.

Zander Diamont, at the heart of it all, is an individual that probably shouldn’t be playing division one college football. His size and arm strength have been talking points throughout his career, but no matter how loud the doubters have gotten, his fiery passion for the game of football has always been there.

It is that passion which has allowed Zander to push through the doubt and be so successful in establishing a fan base that loves him.

Zander Diamont gave me hope.

Zander gave me a hope that no other athlete could provide, because quite simply, Zander Diamont is just a tiny Jewish kid that did things no one else thought he could.

Zander has had to deal with the adversity of losing his redshirt, losing his job, and learning a new role as a wildcat specialist.  Through it all, he evidently never stopped believing in himself.  That’s how he has always been.  That’s how he was before he even got to campus.

“I think I can play with anybody,” Diamont said. “Cam Newton can walk in the room and I’m gonna be like ‘I can play with Cam Newton,’ regardless of whether or not I can. That’s just my mentality and I think that I take that in every aspect of my life.”

That’s how Zander explained his thought process in the face of a challenge, prior to arriving to campus in 2014.

It’s that belief which allowed Mr. Diamont to create moments.

Whether it be his consistent domination of Purdue, his masculine swagger while smoking a cigar, or his always existent ability to break a game changing touchdown, Zander Diamont created moments.

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No moment bigger than when he broke a 79-yard touchdown carry against the reigning National Champions. With that carry, he sparked a belief in a fan base that was consistently non-existent for years on end. With that carry, Zander Diamont took the belief he had in himself, and spread it amongst the 53,000 fans in attendance at that game.

IU went on to lose that game, but their fans have not lost that belief.

When people look back at the career of Zander Diamont, they will see that play as a turning point in a program.  However, when I tell my kids about Zander Diamont, I will tell them about much more than just that one moment.

When I tell my kids about Zander Diamont, I will look to the things that he taught me.

  1. Zander taught me to follow my passion, no matter what anyone else says.

In life, there will be individuals that are critical of you. If you allow that to withhold you from following what you’re passionate about, you will be aimless.

  1. Zander taught me to embrace my role.

You will not always be in the ideal situation.  It is at the times in which you’re most uncomfortable that you will grow the most.

  1. Zander taught me to always believe.

Without faith in your abilities, it becomes difficult too to succeed. No matter how challenging the circumstance, a proper belief can help you overcome a situation.

  1. Zander taught me to always be myself.

Zander brought energy and swagger to the game. People rallied around him, because he was genuine.  He showed people he cared and fans embraced him for it. He never held back who he was.

  1. Zander taught me to have fun doing what you love.

With the routines of work, we sometimes forget the joys which an activity originally gave us. Zander never stopped having fun on the football field, and it showed.

Zander, you electrified a fan base and made an impact on me. You made football fun at Indiana University, and I will never forget what you meant to this team. Neither will my kids. Thank you Zander.