Desert Vista High senior Zack McGinnis is considered to be an ultimate team player by many of those around him in the football program.
He’s the first to defend his teammates. He’s one of the many senior leaders that goes out of his way to mentor young players. He has great passion for everyone on the team, and he’s not afraid to express that on a daily basis.
“I love this team,” McGinnis said. “They’re my brothers. We have a strong brotherhood. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without them.”
McGinnis was a difference-maker last season at safety for Desert Vista, recording 35 tackles and an interception. He played a vital role in the team finishing 10-2 overall, the Thunder’s best record since 2011, in which they finished 13-1 and won the state championship.
He maintains a positive mindset in any situation. He always has a smile on his face. It’s those characteristics that have made him well-liked by his teammates and the coaching staff.
“I’ve coached him since he was a freshman and every year I see him cracking jokes and getting along with everybody,” said Sean Morin, Desert Vista’s offensive coordinator. “But when it’s time to work, he’s all business.”
Morin said he has seen exponential growth in McGinnis this offseason. Listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds at the start of the 2018 season, McGinnis says he is now 6-feet, 190 pounds -- most of his added weight being muscle.
The increase in his size and strength has resulted in Morin bringing him to the offensive side of the ball to fill the vacancy at fullback, left behind by Armando Delgado who graduated and signed to play for Wagner College in New York.
Like McGinnis, Delgado primarily played defense, lining up at linebacker. But his role on offense expanded after an injury to running back Tyson Grubbs.
Delgado had a breakout game against rival Mountain Pointe last season, recording 110 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. He also had 7 tackles on defense, including a tackle for loss and sack. Morin believes McGinnis can make that same type of impact.
“We were looking for another ‘Mando, and that’s where we saw McGinnis,” Morin said. “He’s probably the best fit athletically and he’s been great. We were missing some track guys during spring ball so we put him back there and he impressed all of us.”
With his growth, McGinnis also changed positions on defense. He was moved from safety to outside linebacker, the same position as Delgado. In fact, coaches have already compared him to Delgado in terms of his physicality and overall style of play.
“That’s the biggest honor ever,” McGinnis said. “(Delgado) is one of my biggest role models, so to be compared to him, it’s a great feeling. I still do speed and strength training with him. He’s like my big brother.”
McGinnis acknowledged that lining up in the backfield on offense presents opportunities for him to run the ball. However, that isn’t what is most important to him.
He’s looking forward to being the lead-blocker for Tyson and Devon Grubbs, as well as Colby Humphrey and a plethora of Desert Vista’s other talented running backs. He hopes to protect quarterback Parker Navarro on pass plays, and even provide a safety outlet out of the backfield if the pocket breaks down.
But there’s one play in particular that when mentioned, McGinnis’ eyes light up.
“Man, trap is fun,” McGinnis said. “You get to take someone’s head off and create holes for everyone. We have so many offensive weapons, if I just do my job I know they’re going to score.”
McGinnis has embraced his new roles on both sides of the ball. He takes pride in knowing the Desert Vista coaching staff and his teammates trust him despite no prior experience.
To him, that comes with the strong bond everyone in the program has created with one another.
“Whatever I can do to support this team, I’ll do it,” McGinnis said. “It’s all part of the brotherhood. I know the coaches want to make us better players and I know my teammates will continue to push me.
“We can’t be successful without a brotherhood like this.”
After a successful 2018 season, there are high expectations for Desert Vista in 2019. A large majority of the Thunder’s skill players have returned, but they took a blow on the offensive and defensive lines.
Even with the few returning starters up front, McGinnis and his teammates know they have the talent to compete with any team in the state.
“We are going to keep pushing ourselves,” McGinnis said. “Whatever happens, we are going to make sure we work as a team and trust our coaching staff. As long as we do that, it will be successful in my eyes.
“But we are going for it all, 14-0.”