Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Zastudil consistent in more than just punting

By Jim Horvath

November 26, 2008

For those who know him, the consistency and reliability that Cleveland Browns punter and Bay Village native Dave Zastudil has displayed in his seven year pro career are only an extension of the steadiness that he has shown on and off athletic fields all his life.

“Dave is the same person he has always been,” said T.J. Putnam, his longtime friend and former athletic teammate in several different sports from grade school through through their high school years at Bay High School.

“With some people, there might be a change because he’s made the NFL and has more money and status now, but not Dave,” said Putnam. “He’s the same as he’s always been. He’s a great athlete and is always one of the leaders in the locker room wherever he’s gone. But he’s a very down to earth, caring guy who has always helped others when they need it. He’s the guy who our principal would have the new kids go around the school with because he knew Dave would take care of them and show them around.”

Dave’s parents, Tom and Terri Zastudil, who still live in Bay Village, said Dave has always displayed concern for others.

“He’s always been a leader, whether it’s with his teammates or in another activity,” said Tom. “He’s a consistent person. He always was able to get the other guys on a team to work toward the common goal by working together.”

Tom said the entire family has always been giving, but said Dave carries on tradition well.

“We all take part in work campaigns and projects around the area,” Tom said. “But I think he got the extra caring gene from his mother. She’s always active with the church and many other places.”

His mom, Terri, said she’s proud of her son in many ways that go well beyond his athletic skills.

“He’s been helping people out for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It’s great that he’s a fine athlete, and it’s fun to watch him as his parent. But in addition to using his abilities on the field, he’s used it to help others where he can,” said Terri. “He’d be helping other people out anyway, but it’s great that he uses all the gifts he has to help others.”

For his part, Zastudil said he’s glad to give back to other people.

“It’s great that I’ve been fortunate enough to get this far professionally,” Dave said. “Because of it, I’ve been able to do some things that most people aren’t able to or don’t have the resources to do. So, I’m glad to give something back and help out in different areas.’

Zastudil’s willingness to use his athletic and people skills extends to many areas, his parents noted. Putnam agreed, adding that as the holiday season nears and the spirit of giving grows, said he expects his longtime friend to be active in it by continuing to help others.

“He does it all year round,” said Putnam, who currently is a manager at the city of Dublin Recreation Center near Columbus. “It’s a little tougher during the season, but he’s always been there when you need him. He’s been great, whether it’s just talking with me as a friend when I want to talk or doing something for a group that needs help.”

In some recent examples, last February, Zastudil was a sponsor for a Super Bowl party which raised funds for Rise Above It, a non-profit organization which helps young adults battling cancer. Some other activities that he he’s helped in recent months with include reading books for young children for the Cuyahoga County Public Library system, appearing at an alumni event for his collegiate alma mater, Ohio University, or the extensive help he has given to athletics at Bay High School. He’s aided the Fields of Dreams renovation of athletic facilities for the school district and helped the high school football team.

Tom said all those activities and more are typical for Dave.

“He’s that type of person,” he said. “He’ll do it for people and places that he doesn’t know as well.”

He cited as one example, Dave lending a hand and helping raise $4,000 for the Willoughby South High School track program.

“As soon as he found out they needed help, he got involved,” Tom said.

Officials with the Fields of Dreams project said he’s been just as active with the group’s work in raising funds for renovating the various athletic facilities for the Bay School District.

“He has been a major contributor,” said Barb Harrell, one of the Rockets Renovation group’s leaders. “He has certainly helped out a lot financially on his own, but he’s also worked with other people and groups. He’s always helpful and encouraging and he genuinely cares about what’s going on.”

Clint Keener, superintendent of the Bay School District, said Zastudil has helped draw attention to the field work both intentionally and unintentionally.

“Certainly it helps having someone of his stature help out by raising funds and taking part in the project,” Keener said. “He helps bring other people in when they see he’s taking part and we appreciate it. It shows the type of person he is.”

Keener said Zastudil’s strong work ethic even brought accidental attention to the field and renovation work several months ago.

“We got a call this summer about someone going out on our new fields and using them without permission and possibly causing some problems,” Keener said. “So, when we went to check it it out, it turned out to be Dave and (Browns placekicker) Phil Dawson, who were practicing their kicking and working out. Of course, our reaction: leave them be and let them practice, but we’re glad people are interested in the fields.”

Putnam said he isn’t surprised by that story.

“Dave’s always been a hard worker, so that’s typical of him. But it also shows the type of place Bay is,” he said. “It’s a great place because people care about their community and what’s going on. I’d love to come back there some day and I know Dave was glad to come home.”

Zastudil, who spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Browns’ AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens, agreed with Putnam.

“It was a lot of fun growing up there with guys like T.J.,” he said. “We got to do a lot of things because people care about Bay Village. T.J.’s the type of guy who’ll be my friend forever. I’m glad that I can help give a little back and give other kids the opportunity to use some good facilities in the community.”

One teenager who has benefited from Dave’s help both personally and with the field is Bay High School senior Brian Harrell, a second team all district kicker in 2008.

“He’s a great guy,” said Harrell. “He helped me personally with my punting and kicking. He started working with me when I was a sophomore and I really appreciate it. He’s always stressed consistency and hard work.”

Harrell said Zastudil has helped the entire football team with more than just the new athletic fields.

“He’s brought in other Browns and they all helped us out,” he said. “It’s nice to get that kind of help from players who have achieved what they have to get that far.”

Zastudil admits that with he and his wife Jennifer now having had their first child, Mckenzie, he is even more aware of family and community.

“Having our daughter makes us want to help around not only where we live, but in the Cleveland area and other places when we can,” he said. “Being a parent makes you think of those things.

“I’m fortunate because I had great parents and a supportive family, and my in-laws are super people as well. Now, we just continue and try to give something back that the kids and other people can use,” he said.

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