Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, June 28, 2002


Islanders coach Chad Carlson calls Derek Zoller "285 pounds of athlete."

Zoller ‘brings the truck’
on both sides of ball

By Nick Abramo

Pressure-ignited heat engines go by the name of diesel, which is a fitting description for a Hawaiian Islanders football player known as DZo.

It's more than a rhyme, because DZo -- a k a Derek Zoller -- plays like a diesel engine. He is full of internal combustion that helps power his intense drive.

The dependable fullback/ linebacker, whom Islanders coach Chad Carlson calls "285 pounds of athlete," has been a steady, unsung contributor.

"If you're the opposing running back, Zoller's going to wear you down," Carlson said. "He brings the truck ... he's the diesel truck ... and he brings it on O and on D."

The 6-foot-2 Zoller has five rushing touchdowns this year, the most of any Islanders running back, and he's tied for second on the team in sacks with 2 1/2.


Who: Bakersfield Blitz vs. Hawaiian Islanders
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Where: Blaisdell Arena
Tickets: $10 and up
Radio: Delayed on KCCN 1420-AM
TV: Oceanic Cable Pay-Per-View, live. The game will be replayed Monday at 8 p.m. on OC-16.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, arenafootball2 is mostly a quick-release passing game, so it's not easy to compile rushing touchdowns and sacks.

Zoller is a go-to guy in short-yardage situations, and he's one of nine players on the team in double-digit tackles.

He's not as flashy as Josh White, another valuable fullback/linebacker for the Islanders. But he gets the job done.

The highlight for Zoller so far this season is when he scored the first touchdown in Hawaiian Islanders history, a 5-yard run in the March 30 season-opening win over Fresno at the Blaisdell Arena.

"It was a short dive and it was wide open," Zoller said. "I feel fortunate to be known as the guy who scored the first Islanders touchdown."

The former Campbell High School linebacker played for the University of Hawaii as a fullback in 1997.

"Athletically, DZo has size and speed comparable to players in the NFL, and he has a good mental approach," Carlson said. "He cares and wants success for the team and himself. You can look and see it in his eyes."

The Islanders' 2-10 record is bothersome to Zoller and his teammates. They host division-rival Bakersfield (7-4) tonight at 7 at the Blaisdell Arena.

"Losing is the only bad thing, because I enjoy playing football," he said. "I just try to do what I'm told to do and concentrate on my assignments, mainly that's blocking and rushing the quarterback."

He vividly remembers his first sack, which came at San Diego in June.

"I blitzed in the center and their fullback picked up (another player) and I came in untouched and sacked the quarterback (Kane Claunch)," Zoller said. "That's one of my goals, start getting some sacks."

He also won't forget one of the lighter moments of the season, prior to the game at San Diego.

"Coach Chad was introduced and he ran out with a Spiderman mask on. That's funny for a coach to do, that's entertainment.

"I guess the equipment guys got it (the mask) from Tijuana. He (Carlson) said he would do it, but we didn't believe him."

Zoller's dedication to football is apparent when you take into consideration some of the other things he does daily.

Aside from his duties as a husband and a father of two boys, he works long hours in industrial and environmental services.

"I've felt tired before some games," Zoller said. "Gotta work, and it's a hard job with the strenuous work we do, so I feel drained by the time the weekend comes, and there were a few of those where I was extremely tired."

Hawaiian Islanders

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