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Dynasty & Redraft: WR Zach Pascal, Colts

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Colts' Zach Pascal: Draws 10 targets in loss

Excerpt:

Pascal hauled in six of 10 targets for 56 yards and a touchdown Sunday in the Colts' 37-34 overtime loss to the Texans.

With a banged-up T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) playing only 48 percent of the Colts' offensive snaps in the contest, Chester Rogers and Pascal were both pressed into more extended roles in the absence of the team's top wideout. After falling behind by two touchdowns in the second quarter, the Colts mostly abandoned the run game, with Rogers (eight catches for 85 yards and 11 targets) and Pascal being the main beneficiaries of Andrew Luck throwing a season-high 62 times. While both players would continue to take on increased snaps if Hilton is unavailable for Thursday's game against the Patriots, don't count on another double-digit target outing for either wideout if the game flow allows the Colts to run a more balanced offense.

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Zach Pascal - WR -  Colts

Colts WR Zach Pascal caught 6-of-10 targets for 56 yards and one touchdown in the Week 4 loss to the Texans.

His 10 targets were tied with Eric Ebron for third on the team behind Nyheim Hines and Chester Rogers, who each had 11, on a day Andrew Luck attempted a career-high 62 throws. Pascal got the scoring started for Indy, beating CB Shareece Wright for a four-yard touchdown. The second-year UDFA out of Old Dominion played heavy snaps early and late after T.Y. Hilton had to leave with chest and hamstring injuries. With Hilton sitting Week 5 this Thursday night against the Patriots, Pascal should again get plenty of run in three-wide sets. At 6'2/219, he's a big body in the red zone for Luck.

Oct 1 - 4:36 PM

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This feels like a situation that merits some chatter, but it’s dead quiet in here. His TD was on the opening drive, and he continued to play and get targets throughout the game. 

Big dude from a small school with a pretty good dominator rating and a solid breakout age. Indy was quick to claim him on waivers after the Titans cut him, and his playing time has ticked up steadily. 

Paint-by-numbers analysis would say Rogers or Grant is the likely guy to step up with no Hilton, but I’ll be watching Pascal closely tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I already know Grant and Rogers are JAGs, and Pascal gives them size that they don’t have at the position. 

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4 minutes ago, JFS171 said:

This feels like a situation that merits some chatter, but it’s dead quiet in here. His TD was on the opening drive, and he continued to play and get targets throughout the game. 

Big dude from a small school with a pretty good dominator rating and a solid breakout age. Indy was quick to claim him on waivers after the Titans cut him, and his playing time has ticked up steadily. 

Paint-by-numbers analysis would say Rogers or Grant is the likely guy to step up with no Hilton, but I’ll be watching Pascal closely tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I already know Grant and Rogers are JAGs, and Pascal gives them size that they don’t have at the position. 

Very glad it was quiet. I got him in all my dynasty leagues except 2. One is short bench and the other one I have no room. I don't expect much this year, but I don't have faith that Rogers or Grant are the answers for the 2nd receiver spot. So maybe he can catch on, plus he was free. If he stinks then back to the waiver he goes. 

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2 hours ago, jeaton6 said:

Is he a rookie?

UDFA 2017 Redskins, cut, picked up by Titans, never played an NFL game, released, picked up by Colts.

"ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS

 Showed consistent growth and production as a player. Took on a high percentage of offensive touches as both a receiver and a runner. Routes feature a sharp stick-and-stem at his break to create a quick throwing window for quarterbacks. Hands-catcher who snatches it away from his body unless he needs to secure in traffic. Good awareness to drop feet in bounds near sideline. On deep balls, has a good feel for where defensive backs are and will stack them on his hip and hold them there while he prepares to make the catch. High-point deep ball skills with ability to create some late separation with his body.

WEAKNESSES

 Plays with a duck-footed running style. Long strider off the line of scrimmage. Could struggle to find the foot quickness necessary to shake free of press coverage. Needs a long runway to build up his play speed. Is a little slow getting in and out of his breaks. Lacking the route sharpness to uncover against NFL-caliber cornerbacks. Level of competition did not prepare him for the athletes and speed he will be facing on Sunday.

BOTTOM LINE

 Three-year starter whose consistency of production was on one of the catalysts behind Old Dominion's successful 2016. Pascal has decent size and ball skills but his routes and separation are just okay. His combine workout could go a long way in determining whether or not he gets drafted. He's returned kicks at Old Dominion so that could be a side door into an early roster spot."

-Lance Zierlein  http://www.nfl.com/player/zachpascal/2558877/profile

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4 minutes ago, Truebluey said:

UDFA 2017 Redskins, cut, picked up by Titans, never played an NFL game, released, picked up by Colts.

"ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS

 Showed consistent growth and production as a player. Took on a high percentage of offensive touches as both a receiver and a runner. Routes feature a sharp stick-and-stem at his break to create a quick throwing window for quarterbacks. Hands-catcher who snatches it away from his body unless he needs to secure in traffic. Good awareness to drop feet in bounds near sideline. On deep balls, has a good feel for where defensive backs are and will stack them on his hip and hold them there while he prepares to make the catch. High-point deep ball skills with ability to create some late separation with his body.

WEAKNESSES

 Plays with a duck-footed running style. Long strider off the line of scrimmage. Could struggle to find the foot quickness necessary to shake free of press coverage. Needs a long runway to build up his play speed. Is a little slow getting in and out of his breaks. Lacking the route sharpness to uncover against NFL-caliber cornerbacks. Level of competition did not prepare him for the athletes and speed he will be facing on Sunday.

BOTTOM LINE

 Three-year starter whose consistency of production was on one of the catalysts behind Old Dominion's successful 2016. Pascal has decent size and ball skills but his routes and separation are just okay. His combine workout could go a long way in determining whether or not he gets drafted. He's returned kicks at Old Dominion so that could be a side door into an early roster spot."

-Lance Zierlein  http://www.nfl.com/player/zachpascal/2558877/profile

Please correct me if I am wrong, but that sounds very similar to the Marques Colston report 15 years ago doesn't it?

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He's 6'2 and the Colts haven't had a WR his size in a while. I think there's a chance for him to become a red-zone option, but right now he's behind Grant and Rogers. Once T.Y. comes back unless he shows something I can't see him leapfrog anyone. His Player Profile compares him to Keyarris Garrett (which isn't a ringing endorsement of his abilities), and his SPARQ score is nothing to write home about.

Edited by The Frankman

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21 minutes ago, Ketamine Dreams said:

Worth a flier in dynasty? 

Depends on who you would be dropping obviously. My gut says no. It's not like great things are expected of him long-term. 

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I think he's got a big opportunity tonight. No Hilton. Missing a TE. The defense is decimated tonight. I could see the Colts desperately trying to catch up and Pascal being a huge beneficiary. 

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2 hours ago, Ketamine Dreams said:

Worth a flier in dynasty? 

Yeah, the depth chart after Hilton is a couple of so-so players and not saying pascal isn’t as well but nobody knows what he can really do while we have a pretty good guess on Rogers and Grant. Pretty good lotto ticket

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Zach Pascal caught 1-of-7 targets for 12 yards in the Colts' Week 5 loss to the Patriots.

A second-year UDFA, Pascal was solid in Week 4 but a liability this evening. He committed a comical fourth quarter drop that resulted in an Andrew Luck "interception." It was the sort of play you usually only see in the preseason. Even if T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) remains sidelined for Week 6, Pascal will not be a recommended dart throw in either re-draft or DFS.

Oct 5 - 12:40 AM

 

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This may be neither here or there, but Gronk and Hogan both had "comical" drops which led to pop up interceptions. These roto blurbs are mostly completely unprofessional. 

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18 minutes ago, cloppbeast said:

This may be neither here or there, but Gronk and Hogan both had "comical" drops which led to pop up interceptions. These roto blurbs are mostly completely unprofessional. 

I agree with that said I watched the Indy vs Pats game, Pascal looks too mechanical on the field, with little athleticism. He's just a guy. I would never put him on my fantasy roster.

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Really like how this kid is maturing. I'm grabbing him off dynasty wires now while he's free.

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7 minutes ago, Faust said:

 

Finally some new chatter here. I picked this guy up today for free (after waivers ran) in a dyno that rosters 300 players with room for 100 on IR. 

As a Hilton owner, I am curious to see what happens, but I am not expecting too much - just hoping for the best.

This break down gives me greater optimism. Good stuff.

 

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Zach Pascal caught 6-of-7 targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts' Week 7 win over the Texans.

Pascal’s first touchdown came on a short crosser that featured some solid after-the-catch goodness to find the end zone, while his second score was from a shovel pass on the goal line. He seems ingrained as the offense’s No. 2 WR behind only T.Y. Hilton as long as Parris Campbell (abdomen) remains sidelined. Still, Pascal will boast a low weekly floor in this run-first offense that always keeps the TEs and RBs involved in the passing game.

 

Edited by The Frankman

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Amazingly I started him in one dynasty today due to bye issues. Benched him in another, of course.

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6 hours ago, kittenmittens said:

If Deion Cain had Pascal's production people would be paying a 1st.

Perhaps not a first, but valid point. 

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Seriously thinking of grabbing this guy now with K. Allen dinged suddenly.

Is his production a mirage? Seeing target stats that show this may be a bit fluky.

DEN secondary pretty good, but I'd think Harris covers Hilton?

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Just now, Workhorse said:

With Hilton out for several weeks, what's Pascal's ceiling as the Colts WR1?

Probably fairly high, with Brisset playing so well.

I think Pascal will be the number one passing game option while TY is out.

He has the most targets on the team at WR outside of Hilton, and he is pretty much right there with the TEs for targets per game played.

I think he's definitely in "Must Own" territory in both redraft and dynasty.  He's sortof older now for a player just emerging (almost 25), but he has that young breakout age...

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Reich just indicated a 3-4 week injury.

Next week: home against Miami, then Jax, and then another sweet matchup @HOU.

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8 minutes ago, Charlie Harper said:

How did he look today? And how many targets after Brissett went down?

Clear number 1 colts WR when Ty is out with .  The last drive to set up the game losing FG was a long pass to Pascal which resulted in a questionable PI and a very good 17-yard reception by Pascal.  

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He looked really darn solid. He's no schlub. Has some good attributes, decent routes, athleticism with some good hands.

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Breakout game. 

Also had a huge pass interference call to pick up a long 3rd down.  Probably should not have been called, he sold it perfectly. 

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Zach Pascal caught 5-of-6 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' Week 9 loss to the Steelers.

The Colts’ snaps and targets for their WRs without T.Y. Hilton (calf) were as follows: Pascal (6 targets, 66 snaps), Parris Campbell (5, 45), Chester Rogers (5, 46) and Deon Cain (2, 19). Pascal was easily the Colts’ best and most-featured pass-game option, making multiple highlight-reel grabs throughout the afternoon. This included two snags on the sideline that featured some toe-tap goodness from the second-year WR. Pascal has made good use of his targets all season and figures to only see more work as long as Hilton remains sidelined. Fire up Pascal as an upside WR3 for next week’s dream matchup against the Dolphins, although there will be a floor here if Jacoby Brissett (knee) ultimately misses time.

Nov 3, 2019, 5:17 PM ET

 

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Let's get the ingredients right and see what we are looking at not just this week but perhaps the next 2-3 weeks...

-I am looking at reports that Hilton is expected to miss another 2-3 weeks even though Coach Reich isn't ruling him OUT but Hilton isn't even a limited participant at practice. 

 -Campbell will miss several games with a fractured hand that required surgery, I would argue that sounds like a minimum of a month and the Colts are done with their bye week. 

-I have no idea if Pascal plays the X, Z or slot guy but there doesn't appear to be many others that stand in his way of targets. Funchess went on IR if you recall early in the year. 

-The schedule is super soft in the coming weeks with MIA, JAC(No Ramsey), @Hou(No Watts), TEN, @Tam and that puts you into Week 15 but this guy should be a simple bye week filler with good upside the next few weeks. 

I expect Indy to BLOWOUT the Miami Dolphins but that should still be good for Pascal to make a run at something like 5/70, 6/80/TD, a couple weeks back he had 6/100/2 TDs, he already has 4 TDs and I'm not sure he has really started more than 4 games. 

He was in on over 90% of the snaps last week, no other WR was close to that. 

Edited by Ministry of Pain
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26 minutes ago, Ministry of Pain said:

Let's get the ingredients right and see what we are looking at not just this week but perhaps the next 2-3 weeks...

-I am looking at reports that Hilton is expected to miss another 2-3 weeks even though Coach Reich isn't ruling him OUT but Hilton isn't even a limited participant at practice. 

 -Campbell will miss several games with a fractured hand that required surgery, I would argue that sounds like a minimum of a month and the Colts are done with their bye week. 

-I have no idea if Pascal plays the X, Z or slot guy but there doesn't appear to be many others that stand in his way of targets. Funchess went on IR if you recall early in the year. 

-The schedule is super soft in the coming weeks with MIA, JAC(No Ramsey), @Hou(No Watts), TEN, @Tam and that puts you into Week 15 but this guy should be a simple bye week filler with good upside the next few weeks. 

I expect Indy to BLOWOUT the Miami Dolphins but that should still be good for Pascal to make a run at something like 5/70, 6/80/TD, a couple weeks back he had 6/100/2 TDs, he already has 4 TDs and I'm not sure he has really started more than 4 games. 

He was in on over 90% of the snaps last week, no other WR was close to that. 

For this reason do you see the possibility of a heavy Mack Attack with the occasional pass to keep the D honest?

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13 minutes ago, wormburner said:

For this reason do you see the possibility of a heavy Mack Attack with the occasional pass to keep the D honest?

Marlon Mack could have a huge day vs Miami. If Indy is as good as the Media seems to think they are, should tear Miami apart. But it's naive to think they get so far ahead they don't shoot Pascal at least 6-8 targets. I could also see the TE position and perhaps old Jack Doyle getting more receptions than some owners would care for. 

Balt-4/147/2TD, 8/108/TD

NEP-4/50/TD 

Dallas-6/88/2TDs 

LAC-5/76,

Wash-4/100/2TDs 

Buffalo-5/83/TD,

Pittsburgh-5/103/TD, 5/84/TD, 

NY Jets-8/83/TD

Indy-?/?/?

Pascal has a sensational opportunity to produce this weekend, has to be the favorite WW find in the last week or two. I would be starting him as a Flex everywhere I could. In DFS he should be a cheap starting WR to free up funds for other spots. 

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3 minutes ago, Ministry of Pain said:

Pascal has a sensational opportunity to produce this weekend, has to be the favorite WW find in the last week or two.

I totally agree with you that he finds himself in the perfect storm of opportunity, I'm just a little concerned about game script.  He is one of 2 or 3 options I'm kicking around for flex this weekend.

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13 minutes ago, wormburner said:

I totally agree with you that he finds himself in the perfect storm of opportunity, I'm just a little concerned about game script.  He is one of 2 or 3 options I'm kicking around for flex this weekend.

Spell it out, what is the game script that has you clutching rosary beads? If you have real options than Pascal would be less appealing BUT for many owners fighting to get out of the middle of the pack or make a push the last few weeks BUT have an incredible number of premier players on BYE weeks in the next 3 weeks with a whopping 14 TEAMS that will be off. 

But I could understand why you might feel its the flavor of the week or chasing points however I clearly showed my work on the board. If he fails it will be because something that was a small % chance happened...here let me create your horror story...Miami turns it over 2-3 times in the 1st 3-4 drives creating short fields and BOOM Indy is up 21-0 and salting away the game in the 2nd Q handing it off to Mack for an incredible 35 carries and Hoyer equals the number of passes HoF QB Bob Griese threw in Super Bowl VII which ironically is that actual number, 7. 

Indy is going to take advantage of Miami same way everyone else has and I doubt Indy will call off the dogs until they open up a huge lead well into the 2nd half. If you can gash Miami with a 50 yd strike, you're going to do it, there's no reason to keep Fitz and their offense off the field, besides they will go 3 n out several times so Indy will be on the field all day IMHO. 

Miami just lost perhaps their best WR in Preston Williams which is how they beat the Jets last week with 2 TDs. Walton is suspended, they traded Drake, oops! They won't be able to mount 200 yds of offense. 

Edited by Ministry of Pain
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21 minutes ago, Ministry of Pain said:

Spell it out, what is the game script that has you clutching rosary beads? If you have real options than Pascal would be less appealing BUT for many owners fighting to get out of the middle of the pack or make a push the last few weeks BUT have an incredible number of premier players on BYE weeks in the next 3 weeks with a whopping 14 TEAMS that will be off. 

But I could understand why you might feel its the flavor of the week or chasing points however I clearly showed my work on the board. If he fails it will be because something that was a small % chance happened...here let me create your horror story...Miami turns it over 2-3 times in the 1st 3-4 drives creating short fields and BOOM Indy is up 21-0 and salting away the game in the 2nd Q handing it off to Mack for an incredible 35 carries and Hoyer equals the number of passes HoF QB Bob Griese threw in Super Bowl VII which ironically is that actual number, 7. 

Indy is going to take advantage of Miami same way everyone else has and I doubt Indy will call off the dogs until they open up a huge lead well into the 2nd half. If you can gash Miami with a 50 yd strike, you're going to do it, there's no reason to keep Fitz and their offense off the field, besides they will go 3 n out several times so Indy will be on the field all day IMHO. 

Miami just lost perhaps their best WR in Preston Williams which is how they beat the Jets last week with 2 TDs. Walton is suspended, they traded Drake, oops! They won't be able to mount 200 yds of offense. 

Man, are you published yet or still honing your craft here in the SP?  ;)

I'm not sure my reasonable tapping the brakes due to possible game script is as dire as played out in your manuscript.  If Indy wins but Pascal does not have a monster game, that is not necessarily him failing.  The Colts probably don't need 300 yards passing and three TDs from the QB to beat Miami.  Zach's in a great spot, I've agreed with you, and is a good flex option.  Now we'll see what happens.

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Insider: The rise of Zach Pascal, from '8th-round' to Colts 'most important' receiver

Quote

INDIANAPOLIS -- All Gunnard Twyner could do to calm Zach Pascal’s restless mind was tell him what’d he heard. He sat in the offensive meetings with Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff, so he knew there was a plan.

They needed to get Pascal more involved. It was time, they agreed. 

Twyner, the Colts offensive quality control coach, relayed the message, but Pascal was getting antsy. To begin the season, he’d played two games, 54 snaps in a row, without receiving a single look from quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Not one target. 

It’s not that Pascal didn’t trust Brissett or that the Colts coaching staff wanted to get him involved. He did. He also hadn't lost sight of what brought him to Indianapolis in the first place: his abilities on special teams and as a run-blocker. Through two games, he was excelling in both areas -- just like he had the year before. But Pascal had bigger goals for himself. A grander vision. The special teams, the run-blocking, those were supposed to be a means to an end. 

This past offseason, Pascal lay in bed at night picturing himself schooling cornerbacks. Beating man-to-man coverages. Finding the holes in zones. Imagining how he’d run a route versus a corner playing outside technique. Then, afterwards, imagining how he do it versus inside technique. 

There’s only so much an NFL wide receiver can daydream about run-blocking, Twyner laughed. While not every receiver loves to do it as much as Pascal, said Twyner, a former NFL wide out, they all want the ball.

So, entering his third season, Pascal did what he's done his entire life: He set lofty goals, devised a plan for how to achieve them, then relentlessly attacked them. 

The idea was simple: parlay his reliability as a run-blocker into becoming more involved in the passing offense. He was going to make sure his coaches didn’t have an excuse to yank him off the field in passing situations. 

After the Colts' playoff loss in Kansas City when he caught one pass for seven yards, he went to work, fixing those parts of his game he didn’t like. He changed the way he caught the ball. He altered the way he ran certain routes. He spent so much time at the gym and on football fields, his mother, Deslyn, half-jokingly complained she hardly ever saw him when he was back home in Maryland. 

But the work paid off. During training camp, he was dropping more jaws than passes. 

“There were some routes Zach was running in training camp, we call them teach-tape routes,” Reich said recently. “When a guy runs a route that is just perfect and is going to go on a teach tape. We make a big deal about that and it just seemed like Zach was putting stuff on tape that was, ‘That’s another teach-tape route. Who is running it? It’s Zach.’”

And yet, after all that work he put in, he had little to show for it through the first two games of the season. After the second straight week with no looks, Pascal was frustrated, said Twyner, who had become the 24-year-old receiver’s sounding board.

“I told him, last year we did a study on how many plays he was in on that were blocking plays and not passing plays, and it was pretty high. We knew other teams knew that, so we had set everything up well for him to be successful,” Twyner said. “But he just couldn’t see it. Athletes, you know, they tend to have tunnel vision and can’t see anything but what's right in front of them (laughs).” 

Fortunately for Pascal, what happened next was hard to miss. 

In the second quarter of the Week 3 game against Atlanta, Reich called for a play in which Pascal faked a block, then ran to the end zone. With no defender in sight, Brissett hit him in stride for a touchdown.

“That play was huge,” Twyner said weeks later. “Now he starts to believe we believe in him. That’s so big for an athlete. You just want to know the people you’re playing for trust you. I think he just wanted to feel like this is all going somewhere.”

Pascal needn’t worry about that anymore. Since Week 3, he has racked up 245 yards and three touchdowns, more than any other Colts pass-catcher. His 14 catches and 21 targets each rank fourth on the team in that span, while his six receptions of 25-plus yards lead the way. 

“To be honest,” Brissett said recently, “I don’t know where our offense would be without him.” 

It’s gotten to the point, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni added, where the coaching staff never wants to take Pascal off the field. Against Denver, they hardly did. He played 92.2% percent of the offensive snaps, a mere 1% less than star receiver T.Y. Hilton. 

He'll likely see a similar snap count in the coming weeks while serving as the de facto No. 1 receiver with Hilton (calf) out. 

“Zach may not be the best receiver we have, but he’s the most important one,” Twyner said. “He’s 100% the most complete. And that makes him a powerful asset in any offense.”

From an undrafted free agent cut four times by two different teams in less than a year to a bonafide NFL starter on an AFC contender, Pascal's quick rise through the NFL ranks has been nothing short of remarkable.

At least from the outside. To those who know Pascal best, well, they knew it was only a matter of time. 

Work ethic, a letter and the love of football

For years, when Deslyn Pascal prayed for her son, she thought of a letter he wrote her.

It stands out, she said, among the dozens of letters Zach wrote for her when he was just a boy. She used to take Zach and his siblings to the library and make them write about the books they’d checked out. Immigrants from the Caribbean island of Grenada, Deslyn and her husband, Roylan Pascal, were determined for their children to live out the American Dream. Education and hard work seemed like the surest paths to success.  

“My father was all work, work, work, and mom was more, 'Boy, get your butt in school,'" Pascal said. "And she used football to get me to do that. Like, 'If you don't do good in school, you ain't going to football practice.' And you don't take football practice away from me (laughs)." 

One time, instead of asking them to write a letter that summarized what they’d read and learned, Deslyn wanted to know what her children dreamed about. Where did they want all that education and hard work to lead them? She assigned her children the task of writing about what they wanted to be when they grew up. 

This is the letter that Deslyn held in her mind as she prayed for Zach all those years. It didn’t just include his dream of playing in the NFL, but the very path he’d take to get there. 

“He wanted to get a 14-something on the SATs, go to a D1 college, then play for the New York Giants," Deslyn said. "We both loved the New York Giants, so that was his dream.

“And I’d pray, ‘God, this is so precise. This is what he wants. So if this is your will for his life, let it be done.'”

Deslyn still has that letter. Still thinks of it when she watches her son flip over a defender into the end zone like he did during his breakout game (106 yards, two touchdowns) a couple of weeks ago against Houston.

She knows how lucky she is. There aren’t many parents so privileged to watch their children live out their dreams before their eyes. She is proud of how far he's come and prouder still of how much he's had to overcome to get there.

From little-known recruit out of Dr. Henry A. Wise High School in Maryland, to undrafted out of tiny Old Dominion to cut by the Redskins and Titans, Zach's journey to the Colts has been anything but easy. 

She likes talking about those stories of perseverance, but these days, the off-field stories Deslyn hears about Zach are the ones she relishes. She loves hearing that Brissett refers to her son as a "special dude" or about Pascal's routine of playing catch with kids before games -- "Pregame Passes with Pascal" he likes to call it. 

She bubbles with joy when she hears that Sirianni told the Colts offense that he hopes his son, Jacob, grows up to play the same brand of technically sound, unselfish football Zach does. 

"I do love hearing that," says Deslyn, who texts her son Bible verses every morning as a reminder of who this is all for. "That means I did something right." 

As for the football, Deslyn and Roylan have learned to become fanatics as their son lived and breathed the game every second of his young life. She encouraged him to chase his dream, but it was never something she worried too much about for him. Even before he wrote her that letter, playing in the NFL always seemed like his destiny. 

His first pee-wee football coach told her that her son was going to play in the NFL. Kind of him to say, she thought at the time, but she knew the odds. But it quickly became apparent to her that Zach had a chance to defy those odds. 

As Zach grew up and more coaches and more parents repeated that first coach's refrain, she started to believe it was a possibility. Zach did, too. He did all the things he was supposed to do to make his dream a reality. But what was most impressive to his mother is how he avoided those things that could shatter his dream. If there was something that stood in the way of football, his mother said, he avoided it like the plague. 

Deslyn remembers the day with perfect clarity, her teenage son, a senior in high school, bawling in the front seat of the family car, her not understanding what was wrong.

"He was screaming his head off, tears running down face," Deslyn said before asking, "'Why are you crying like that?' And I’m thinking, 'OK, he’s embarrassed, he’s hurt.' But it was nothing like that."

He had gotten into a fight with one of his teammates after practice. 

"Not a fight," Zach quickly clarifies. "It was about to be a fight. ... The guy, it was this guy who was the best player on the team, and in high school, I didn't start until my senior year. Anyway, I was playing good, but he kept telling me things like I wasn't -- excuse my language -- 'I wasn't (expletive). So don't let the press blow your head up.' And I’m like, 'I'm on your team. Why you picking on me?'"

On that day, a season's worth of animosity boiled over. 

"He got in my face, and I wanted to, oh man, I wanted to punch him. I was furious."

But he didn't, Deslyn remembers. 

"He turned around and said to me, 'I’m crying because if I hit him, I’m going to get suspended, then I can’t play football.' I sat in the car listening to that child, and I couldn’t believe my ears. That’s when I knew he was going to be OK." 

"I wouldn’t mess with the game," Pascal said. "I would never mess with the game. I love it too much." 

During his 32 years of coaching, Bobby Wilder has come across plenty of players who like football. Lots of guys, Zach's Old Dominion coach said, enjoy the game. They enjoy putting on the uniform and the camaraderie of the locker room. 

Zach liked that stuff, too, Wilder said. But rarely has he come across someone who loves football like Zach Pascal. 

"Guys like Zach," Wilder said, "you get those guys once in a decade."

Part of the eighth round gang

Now, Twyner expects his phone to buzz on his off day. He expects to see a text message from Pascal. He doesn't even have to read it at this point. He knows it'll say something like, "Can we go catch some balls off the JUGS (machine)?" Or, "Hey, can we watch this film," or, "Can we look over that technique?"

"Seriously, on his first day of camp with us, I don't even know if he'd been here eight hours before he pulled me aside and said, 'I really want to learn this offense,'" Twyner remembers. "We've spent a lot of hours on the field together before and after walkthroughs, just him and me." 

Wilder laughs when he hears those kinds of stories of Pascal in the NFL. That's nothing. He was worse at Old Dominion. 

Stubborn doesn't even begin to describe it, Wilder chuckles.

His senior year, Pascal and Wilder agreed that he needed to be playing special teams. Despite his status as a star receiver for the Monarchs, they both believed that if he was going to make it to the NFL, it would most likely be as a fifth receiver -- someone who'd need to standout on special teams if he was going to have any sort of staying power. 

His ability and willingness to play special teams needs to be on his college tape, they agreed. But that's where their accord ended. Wilder's rule was that if a player was going to play every snap -- or thereabouts -- on offense or defense, he could only play on two of the four specials teams. 

To Pascal, this was unacceptable. 

"He would literally come bother me and the special teams coach, coach (Charles) Bankins, every day with the exact same question: Why am I not starting on all four teams?" Wilder remembers. "And we'd tell him everyday, 'You're a starter. You play a ton of reps. You can't play more than two teams or you'll wear down.'"

"Coach, that will never happen," Wilder remembers Pascal telling him. 

Wilder even resorted to attaching a tracking device to Pascal to convince him he was wearing himself out. The evidence was there. Pascal, who had started sneaking into special teams drills he wasn't supposed to be a part of, was more than doubling the output all of the other wide receivers. 

It didn't matter, Wilder said. Pascal continued to insist he wouldn't wear down, and he didn't. 

Instead, he caught 65 passes for 945 yards and nine touchdowns -- all team bests. During that season, Wilder said, Pascal played every position on offense but lineman. He was their star receiver, their wildcat quarterback, and even their fullback when they needed one. And that's after he was recruited as a corner back and talked his way into playing receiver.

Old Dominion went 10-3 during Pascal's senior year of 2016, including a victory in the Bahamas Bowl, the first bowl win in program history. That doesn't happen without Pascal, Wilder said. Not just on the field, but off. He became the heart and soul of that team his senior year. 

"His work ethic, and his love of the game set the example," Wilder said. "It reverberated throughout the team. Everyone felt him all of the time."

Wilder still shows his players tape of Pascal playing special teams at Old Dominion. This is what it takes, he tells them, if you want to make your dream come true. That footage is even more effective because of the results that came from it. Pascal became the first player in program history to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. 

Wilder remembers calling Pascal with tears in his eyes when he heard the news. For Wilder, it was personal. Pascal was the first player he coached to be invited to the combine. 

"If I could have picked a person to be that guy, that’s who I wanted it to be," Wilder said. "Lightly recruited out of high school, playing a different position when he got here. A guy who works so hard, you can't help but root for him." 

Pascal was proud to get invited to the combine.  That meant everything he had worked for his whole life was coming to fruition. 

And to be the first from your program, to represent not only your school, but your hometown and your family, that was special, Pascal said. Nerve-wracking, but special.  

But looking back on it now, what's meant the most to him as he's navigated the cruel realities of the NFL was not being drafted.

He's proud of it. 

Sometimes, Brissett says, while they're watching film, Pascal will start shouting "eighth-round gang" when he sees players he knows weren't drafted. That's someone who understands the fight it took to get to where they are. 

"I’m glad it happened," Pascal said. "I'm glad I didn't get picked. Glad I got cut. Twice. I love this chip I have on my shoulder. I don't know what I'd do without it. I feel like it made me not only a good football player but the man I am today. I don’t really trip if something's going bad anymore. You just fix it. Fix it as fast as you can. 

"It’s just that continuous grind. Trying to get better, trying to get better, trying to get better. I’m still trying."

Pascal's walking away from his locker as he says this. It's time for practice. Before he gets down the hallway, though, he stops and looks back. 

"Hey!" he says. "The story ain’t over. It’s just getting better."

 

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Man I got some goosebumps reading that. Great story, hope it’s the beginning of something great for him. I’ll be starting him!

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7 pour 150 et 1 dimanche

 

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