STATE COLLEGE — Zach Zwinak still sported a flexible brace on his left wrist. It was the only sign anything was wrong to begin with.
Penn State’s starting tailback had no problem lifting up 150-pound kegs filled with sand and running with them during Friday’s Lift For Life event. He didn’t have any issues with the 100-pound sandbags either. Or with pushing sleds with weights on them.
Zwinak was a full participant in the charitable event, a comforting sign for the Nittany Lions, who hope to have him full-go for preseason camp next month.
The junior injured the wrist in the Blue-White Game in April. Penn State never revealed the severity of the situation, but it was serious enough that coach Bill O’Brien said Zwinak might not see full contact until mid-August.
Friday, though, looked to be a positive step for him.
“Zwinak is a warrior,” said strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, who oversaw the five-event workout at Lift For Life. “He got in that rehab … and was in all the time, working his hand, his wrist. So it’s no surprise he’s ahead of schedule. And that all has to do with him, his diligence and our athletic training staff.
“He’s doing a tremendous job. He was out here and did every event today.”
That included everything from lifting heavy objects to anchoring his team at the end of the rope in the tug of war.
At the start of the summer, there was some doubt as to whether Zwinak would be far enough long to participate in the event.
“If you asked me a month ago if he could do this, I’d say let’s be cautious and not do it,” Fitzgerald said. “But he said, ‘I’m doing it.’ So he’s ready to go. It’s exciting.”
Ferguson still in California
The only notable name missing from the Lift For Life competition was sophomore quarterback Tyler Ferguson.
Battling with true freshman Christian Hackenberg for the starting job under center, Ferguson was not on campus as he visits family back in California.
O’Brien told The Patriot-News this week that Ferguson’s mother is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Ferguson grew up in California and signed with Penn State sight unseen back in December after a year of junior college.
Ferguson is expected to be back before camp opens in August, but an exact date for his return is unknown.
“Tyler Ferguson’s at home spending time with his family, and good for him,” Fitzgerald said. “The guys that are here at Lift For Life — real proud of them, too.
“I’m happy he’s at home with his family, spending time with them. I’ll be excited when he comes back.”
Nearly all of Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class, including Hackenberg, is on campus and was in attendance at the event. Among the true freshmen on scholarship, only defensive back Neiko Robinson was absent.
Defense prevails over offense
This year’s Lift For Life used an offense vs. defense scoring system, with the defense winning 220-152.
The defense won two of the three climactic tug of war events at the end of the afternoon to clinch the win.