Zach Hartsfield admits there were moments of shell shock early in his first season playing football on the junior college level.
A standout wide receiver while taking the field Centennial High School, Hartsfield converted to tight end in his freshman season at Bakersfield College last year. While trying to learn the intricacies of his new position, Hartsfield realized just how difficult the switch would be the first time he attempted to engage a 300-pound defensive linemen, something he was rarely asked to do in high school.
Despite earning Second-Team designation from the All-Southern California Football Association by season's end, Hartsfield needed to get stronger heading into 2019, and had a simple strategy for bulking up.
“It was a lot of eating,” he said. “Any time I had a chance I’d have a snack in my hand or make sure I had something in my body. I was never hungry, that’s for sure.”
The strategy has paid off. Listed at 228 pounds on last year's BC roster, Hartsfield has put on more than 20 pounds this offseason, a transformation that’s paid big dividends on the practice field.
He hopes to see it continue to pay off when the Renegades open the 2019 season Saturday, at home against Mt. San Antonio.
“I definitely noticed my ability to move people and get in the right positions quicker,” he said. “Last year I was a bit more hesitant because I didn’t know as much about the position. I’m smarter with my steps and just knowing what to do.”
Hartsfield is also hoping to see more action in the passing game after being used primarily as a blocker in 2018. Though he caught just four passes a year ago, he did get a chance to showcase his explosiveness on a 64-yard reception against East Los Angeles in October.
Impressed with the work he’s put in this offseason, Renegades coach Jeff Chudy says an expanded role as a pass catcher is in the works for the second-year tight end.
“He’s got the whole package,” Chudy said. “He has done a tremendous job in the offseason preparing himself physically and mentally to give us his best effort. He’s just been totally committed to improving himself.”
Having already followed in the footsteps of one family member — father Chris Hartsfield is a former BC linebacker — Zach is hoping to reach the same heights as another in cousin Matt Fisher, a linebacker and special teams player at Fresno State in the late 90s and early 2000s.
“I’ve always wanted to get to the Division I-level,” Zach Hartsfield said. “It was really cool knowing someone in my family was able to. Now I hope I can.”
Hartsfield got a chance to impress D-I coaches over the summer, when he took part in a workout at San Jose State. Though he didn’t come away from the session with an offer, he says coaches told him if he could continue adding weight and finish off plays with more consistency, “I’ll be a guy they seriously look at.”
By season’s end, Hartsfield is hoping to have some impressive individual accomplishments to show off to potential recruiters. Aside from making the leap to First-Team All-SCFA, he is also shooting for a spot on the All-State squad.
More than anything, he hopes to help the Renegades finish strong, following a 6-5 2018 season that ended with back-to-back losses.
“The ultimate goal is to get to state,” he said. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time though.”