Endowed Scholarship Story: Chad Bach
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Offensive Lineman Chad Bach hadn't played a down of football at Portland State when he started at center in last season's first game. Center was a new position for him because he'd played tackle at Mt. View High School in Bend. And, he was nervous.
The 2016-17 Pokey Allen Endowed Scholarship winner had been a redshirt in 2013, then missed the 2014 season with an injury.
"Because of the injuries, I was lighter and weaker than when I arrived," he recalled. On top of that, his first public performance was against Washington State University.
Nearly everything went right for him and the team.
"We finally made it (a 24-7 win, the program's first over a Pac-12 opponent). We made it on ESPN. I started. It was pouring rain. I was playing a new position but I didn't have a bad snap. It was a real confidence builder," Bach said.
It also was a new era under first-year Head Coach Bruce Barnum, who ultimately earned the FCS National Coach of the Year award.
From just about everyone's point of view, the Vikings played better as a team last year. After eight games, PSU was 7-1 and Bach (who missed the last four games because of a virus) said he could feel and see the turnaround. There was a change of pace. Everything changed, he said.
"We had a lot of support. You felt like you belonged to something and that someone believed in us. We weren't getting yelled at, we were being supported. It was BarnyBall. They believed in us. It was different. We went from no support to feeling that people really cared about what we were doing. The crowds got bigger. Everything changed," said Bach.
Barnum "didn't care what happened on the field, he cared about you and what you did individually."
For example, after getting pushed all over the field but being down only 10-0 at halftime in the WSU game, "the first thing he said to us at halftime was… 'ok, we have them right where we want them'. My reaction was 'What!?' Then he went on to say he didn't care what the score was… he wanted us to go back out there and 'think you can win this, I don't want you thinking, they're Pac-12, they're too big, we can't win. I want you to go out there and think you can'."
It wasn't until the fourth quarter that "we were looking at each other and thinking… 'hey, we can win this.' But, what he told us at halftime was exactly the right thing."
That game certainly was Bach's highlight for the season. "They say that's all behind us. It's all over. But that really was a highlight."
It was the perfect way to come back after a couple years of disappointment. It had been hard to sit out.
"Playing again is like taking a breath. There is no way to describe how hard it is to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else get better and push for playing time," he said.
It's taken a year, but he finally feels back to where he was when he entered Portland State. His weight and strength are back going into summer drills. And Offensive Line Coach AC Patterson has high hopes for his junior year, although he's not sure where he'll play.
"Chad played center for us last year. He had some big shoes to fill (former PSU Center Cornelius Edison is with the Chicago Bears) and he did well. You can see that from the stats. We ran the ball well and that's partly due to him. He's one of five linemen and they're responsible for our success with the run. He's also the guy who had to make the calls," Patterson said.
For next year, Bach said he wants to improve his flexibility and vertical movement but thinks he'll have to work hard to keep his position. "We're really deep again at offensive line. There've been some big transfers brought in. It's going to be tough to earn a spot. We have the best offensive line we've had in some time… maybe ever." Patterson also would like to see Bach step up more as a leader.
While Patterson agrees the competition will be stiff, he's pretty sure Bach will play, he's just not sure where.
"He played center for us last year, but in spring ball, he played some guard. We're still trying to figure out about next year. We've got two good transfers coming in, but he'll play. We just want to put the best five guys in the right positions," Patterson said.
Meanwhile, off the field, Bach continues to shine. He's a Business Administration and Leadership major and is seriously thinking of coaching after college.
Bach will likely have a place on a team this fall which goes into the season ranked 17th nationally by Sporting News. And, he's just delighted to be playing on a winning team and in the current team atmosphere.
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