National Scouting Combine presents DL Joel Zellem

Position: Defensive line

School: Waynesburg University

HT/WT: 6’4 305

X: joel1zellem

Instagram: six5zellem

Achievements: (awards, honors, notable accomplishments, etc…)

All PAC honorable mention x2

All-Region team Honorable mention as a special teamer x1

All-PCAC team second team x1

blocked 8 PATs/Field Goals in last three seasons


How’d you end up at your current school? What was the recruiting process like? 

The recruiting process was one where I was told by the old staff that was new at the time that I would be a key piece to rebuilding at Waynesburg. The recruiting process was underwhelming. You have your tours and your over night visits, but I didn’t get to talk football as much as I wanted to. It was pretty standard, I went with a friend from High School and going there felt right at the time.


What gives you an advantage over other athletes at your position?

Aside from prototypical size, I have a nose for making plays on the football. Blocking kicks, deflecting passes, creating turnovers whether that’s stripping the ball or recovering a football. I don’t see that as a common trait among interior defensive lineman.


What does being a student of a game mean to you?

A student of the game to me just means accepting the fact you can always learn more or learn the same thing in a different light to utilize knowledge in a different way. Whether it is something technique wise or different factors within a scheme. If you ever run around on a field as a player or coach and have a sense that you know everything or know as much as you can, you will put yourself in a position where you stunt growth or stunt your ability to reach a higher potential. Being a student of the game just means you can always learn something better and always learn something more.


How does being a (insert your position) reflect itself in your personal life?

Being a D-lineman in college I had to learn the hard way that statistics will rarely reflect your performance. Of course making huge tackles will show up and look good but playing defensive tackle my first job was to play the run by eating two blocks so other guys can make plays. Some of my best games were games where I only had 1-2 tackles but you won’t earn awards that way or get articles written about you for those. But that is something I’ve come to embrace because the only validation that matters is what comes from my family, my coaches and my teammates. I’ve learned to love those gritty unnoticed games where the guys across from me know I dominated, and the guys behind me know I dominated regardless of how many plays show up on the box score.


How would you describe your work ethic?

I know my work ethic is a great one. To get to this point and to get to be able to participate in an event like this one, you have to have some sort of drive to be able to propel you this far. My last season of football was a testament of that. My girlfriend whom I have a house with, had our first born on August 7th of this year. We had an extended stay at the hospital because he was a little jaundice and what not. I had open communication with my Head Coach and my new Defensive coordinator about what was going on and they were okay with me staying until they both were allowed to go home. I missed the first two days of camp and the initial install of our new defensive scheme. During the season I would be at home with my son during the day, I would leave to go to practice and would pass him off to my girl friend who works in Waynesburg. Then after practice I would come home at 5:00, eat dinner and work my job as a life insurance sales assistant from about 6:00-9:00 and after that I would do any work I had to get done in the masters program. I wouldn’t be able to attend any morning lifts, any post practice meetings for the duration of the season. Missing lifts was difficult because you lose that aspect of strength retention during the course of a season. For the first half of the season I would leave our games to drive to be a bouncer at a bar from 8:00p to about 3a for my second job to make ends meet. That and with a new born i obviously had less sleep as well, this season had a plethora of new and unique challenges for me to navigate. I was the furthest thing from a college kid living in a dorm. I was a full time adult with a newborn son, being a full time athlete, working two jobs and getting my masters degree at the same time. I tell you that, to describe my work ethic. I made that work, if I am able to earn a livable wage to play football, that would be an easier situation that what I had just described and I work hard every day to make that dream a reality.


What do you consider to be one of the more important things you learned from the coaching staff?

To always be able and willing to adapt to your circumstances. We had a lot of inconsistent play and injuries on our line this season. I started out at 3 tech and our nose guard tore his bicep so I was moved. Our rotations would be our new 3 tech would play a hand full of snaps and then we would bring in our back up nose and I would switch back to 3 tech. Then our new 3 tech would come back in and I would bump back to nose. Having some new and inexperienced guys, I had to know what everyone on the line was doing in case anyone had a question regardless of the fact I wasn’t attending the extra meetings, it didn’t matter. Bouncing between nose and 3 tech wasn’t a big deal to me because I was willing to buy in no matter what my preference might have been.


What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment in your sports career so far? Having 8 career blocked kicks is probably the biggest one I have. That and also completing this past football season in the manner I did it in.


How did you hear about the National Scouting Combine?

My defensive coordinator had a connection and he put me on to it.


Why did you choose the National Scouting Combine?

At this stage in my football life the only thing I can do is work for more practices and more games. To play football at any level at any stage is a privilege. The national scouting combine gives me more practices, at least one more game and an opportunity to get better and to play the game that I love. That’s all I could ever want moving forward.


What do you hope to show people at the combine?

I hope that the right people see that I can play the game at the next level. I hope I can show enough of the right people that it doesn’t matter that I was a D3 football player that my size and my abilities can be developed and utilized at a higher level and that I am willing to do whatever a coach believes he needs from me. Whether that is being a defensive lineman, being on the field goal or field goal block team or being a lead blocker as a fullback in goalline/short yardage situations. For a 300-pound athlete I can check more boxes than most and I am willing to do whatever a coach needs me to do.


What was your Major?

My undergrad was athletic communications with a focus in sports announcing and my master’s program is in integrated marketing.


If you could make a positive impact on all of society what would it be and why?

I would attempt to try and lead as many people as possible to not be so divided. Regardless of religion, skin color, ethnic history, financial status or upbringing. Our country and our world is so intentionally divided and I know with out a doubt if we could all be united a lot of the problems we have today in the modern world as we know it would go away.


What is something unique about you that people would find interesting?

My dream job aside from playing football or coaching football professionally would be to host a successful podcast. Inspired by Pardon My Take and the Pat McAfee shows. I would love to be able to come anywhere close to the success those podcasts have had in the venture of my own.



If you had the opportunity to play another sport professionally, what sport would you choose?

To fit my skill set I would have to pick rugby. If i could pick anything skillset aside I would pick basketball.


Are you involved in mentoring, a charity or do you “give back” or “pay it forward” in your community?

Nothing involved with a company or anything like that, but I have made efforts in training high school level athletes and college athletes. I tagged it “Lineman university” just copying George Kittle in a sense. There are so many camps and 7 on 7 opportunities for skilled guys so I do my best to get guys that are offensive and defensive line to come get work in and get coached up in the off season when things might not be available to them.