Junior year was a rough time for student Johnny Michalek. Due an altercation he quit the football team during the 2002 season. Immediately realizing his mistake Michalek regretted his decision and showed up to practice a few days later pleading with his coach to let him back on the team.
Michalek’s readmission did not come with out a consequence. After practice he was to run 30 routes in a row with the ball thrown to him by the quarterback each time.
It was his true best friend, Scott Zornes, who would in this time show his outstanding loyalty and support by running every single one of those routes along side Michalek.
To Zornes, doing this for his best friend was a no-brainer, but it was continuous acts such as these that would make him a man missed among many.
The month of November falls under the Catholic church’s liturgical season known as ordinary time, but this month is anything but ordinary for those still mourning or celebrating the lives of their loved ones.
The eleventh month of the year has been dedicated to the souls of the faithfully departed by the church.
The Basilian Fathers and campus ministry have invited students to remember and honor all of the deceased members of their community, and more specifically those alumni, who have died in the past year.
Among these alumni are many successful men who have truly exemplified what it means to be a man of St. Thomas.
Scott Zornes, class of 2003, is one alum in particular stands out among the rest. He lived a short life of twenty-six years.
Zornes died Sunday, Aug. 15 in an accident involving a motor vehicle. All students of St. Thomas, past and present, can use his life as an inspiration to live their own to its fullest, as he did.
The Lord brought Zornes into this world April 27, 1984, bestowing him as a blessing upon his parents, Mam and Scott Sr.
Zornes’ inviting personality and determination to find the good in all made him friends everywhere he went. His contagious
smile was never half-hearted; it was always ear to ear with eyes barley visible amongst his squint. He is described by friends as a kid at heart, brightening every room he entered and spreading laughter as though it were a plague. Zornes had brown hair that was frequently seen thrown under a baseball cap or slicked back behind one of his many cowboy hats. His big build and tall stature he got from his father made it no surprise when he showed interest in sports.
“He was like a 210-pound labrador retriever that thought he was a lap dog,” Scott Sr. said, while describing his son in an article he wrote for the Southwestern Football League’s (SFL) online news.
He may not have been aware of the fact that he frequently became the center of attention, but it was the disregard he had for this, confidence he carried himself with and capacity to inspire trust within others through acts of true-heartedness, that made him the prime example of a man others wished to be surrounded by.
Zornes, the oldest of three, grew up in West University with his brother Adam, class of 2004, and sister Paige, who is currently a junior attending St. Agnes Academy. It was in this neighborhood, that he began his love for sports by participating in The West University Little League(WULL) from a young age.
Zornes continued to play sports at his grade school, St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP). He developed his religious foundation there and was in the eighth grade graduating class of 1999.
After SVDP, Zornes came to St. Thomas. He, like many students, played sports such as baseball and football, developed his relationship with God and made some life long friends.
“Friends like Scotty are few and far between,” Johnny Michalek, class of 2003, said.
Zornes is regarded by football defensive coordinator Tim Fitzpatrick, his former coach, as a “big physical kid.”
“He always liked to make contact and wasn’t afraid of anybody,” Fitzpatrick said.
Zornes was capable of playing a number of positions. His coach’s tendency to rely on the quarterback’s passing game made Zornes way too valuable to the offensive team as a slot receiver at the time.
“We couldn’t keep him off the field,” Fitzpatrick said “He would block and make that hard catch over the middle where a lot of receivers can’t.”
“Above all Scotty played the game the way its supposed to be played: with dedication and a smile on his face, always trying to get better, never missing a practice and giving credit to his teammates before himself,” Fitzpatrick said. “He was very well-mannered. It was always ‘Yes sir,’ ‘No sir,’ ‘what can I do?’ and ‘If you need me, put me in!’”
“Scotty was a top-notch kid, consummate team player and a hell of a teammate,” Fitzpatrick added.
The current football staff’s admiration for Zornes was clear when they gradually gathered around Fitzpatrick, listening to what he had to say. Some coaches could not fight the temptation to butt in and give their two-cents about Zornes, while others who did not know him interrupted with questions about his life.
Zornes won All-State honors in TAPPS for baseball and football as a student here. His love for sports took him farther in life, helping him achieve greatness.
After his successful high school athletic career, Zornes was one of the few athletes of his class to go on to play football and compete at the college level successfully at the University of Mary Harden Baylor. For this, he was rewarded an induction into the St. Thomas Hall of Champions. Men worthy of this honor are those who come through the athletic program in not only good standing, but also with a level of excellence. A picture of Zornes in his purple crusaders uniform was placed in the Hall of Champions and will remain there forever.
After two semesters at Mary Harden Baylor, Zornes returned to Houston. He, being the man of St. Thomas he was, saw that giving back to the community that had raised him was a good starting point to find his answer of what to do with his life.
In spring 2009, Zornes was chosen to coach a WULL junior team. While coaching the discovered how naturally he could connect with his players. His amazing ability, which showed great promise, did not go unnoticed. Others soon saw his knack for coaching and it was not long before he was asked to coach the Junior League’s tournament team following the spring season. Later that summer he was approached with the opportunity to help coach the WULL’s senior team. With Zornes’ help the team went on to win state and eventually the World Series, where they defeated Freemont, CA.
Immediately after arriving in town from his whirlwind experience in Bangor, Maine, Zornes began working on a new project, coaching the Bulldogs in the SFL. After word spread of his amazing coaching ability, The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) felt Zornes had earned the Double-Goal Coach’s national award. He received this award at a ceremony in Stanford, CA, in February. Coaching, which had now grown from a hobby to a passion, seemed to his the answer to life’s ultimate question.
After having the taste of sweet success, Zornes was starving for more. More driven than ever, he enrolled at the University of Alabama. He started class in the spring semester of this year and began pursuing his dreams of coaching. At Alabama he tackled his academics head on, making the President’s and Dean’s List for his first semester. He also completed an internship as a student coaching assistant to Nick Saban with the Tide football program.
Sunday morning, Aug. 15, a Ford F-150 crashed in an embankment, then caught fire off. Zornes tragically died on impact.
Mid-morning the next day, with Adam in California, Scott Sr. at work, and Paige at school, the police met Mam at the front door of the Zornes family home. The family was later informed that the person in the truck was Scott.
It was not long before those who knew and loved Zornes came together at the family’s home to support his parents, siblings and each other. Visitors recalled favorite memories of Scott: who he was, what he did, and many other aspects of his being. The outdoors, hunting, sports and all other passions of his, provided many stories for reminiscing. Even home videos were played. Everything from childhood Christmases and vacations to hanging out with neighbors were shown, accompanied by happy and sad tears.
The always happy, energetic, sports fanatic, unpredictable man gave everyone he came encounter with something to talk about.
Zornes’ life of continually overcoming obstacles while remaining a man of St. Thomas towards all and achieving so much during his short life presents no surprise that his name and memory continues to live and be a part of our world.
Athletic Director Mike Netzel believed St. Thomas needed to do something special for Zornes as a school. He knew how much Zornes meant to St. Thomas, vice versa and how much the school meant to his parents. The October 8 varsity football game against Houston Christian during Alumni Reunion Weekend provided the perfect time and place to honor Zornes as an alumni and former football player. In return the school was honored to have his parents, siblings, former teammates and best friends Trey Englert and Johnny Michalek, present that night.
The school paid tribute to Zornes by hanging banners with his number 14 surrounded by eagles’ wings in the northeast corner of Granger Stadium and above the press box, which are to stay there for the remainder of the season. Zornes’ brother Eagles on the field honored him by wearing a number 14 helmet decal and signed a helmet including the commemorative 14 sticker and a captain’s sticker. Senior Will Gutkowski presented the helmet midfield. Gutkowski is a captain, as Zornes was, and wears the same number 14 jersey that Zornes did.
“Will, our captain and who also wears Scotty’s number, scored two touchdowns that night, one of which was game winning touchdown,” Netzel said. “I guess its kind of a weird deal, but until the Pius game, we hadn’t lost a game since we put up the number 14 banner.”
The PCA, who had nationally awarded Zornes for his coaching earlier this year, will start giving an award out each year to honor a coach who is making a difference in the lives of young athletes in memory of Zornes. This was announced at their first ever scholarship and award ceremony dinner held in Houston Friday, October 8.
The University of Alabama has also chosen to honor their Houston hero by ringing the Denny Chimes bell tower for 30 minutes to pay tribute Zornes. The University will also be dedicating a brick to Zornes, which will have his name engraved upon it and become part of the brick flooring that surrounds the Denny Chimes bell tower.
This year’s WULL senior team, containing 10 returning members from the 2009’s team, went on to be the southwest’s regional champs and World Series contenders without their favorite coach. After word of the tragic news of Zornes’ death reached his players they decided to dedicate the season and series to Zornes. The team depicted “SZ RIP” upon their helmets and hats to show the respect they have for Zornes.
Many online articles have been written about Zornes. A tribute video, showing many pictures from Zornes’ life, can be found on Facebook and YouTube.
A few months have passed since Zornes’ death and still people continue to post on his Facebook wall their favorite memories with him, let him know how much they miss him and share links to other online information about him. To some, who are having a difficult time dealing with his absence, this is a good way to express how they feel.
The positive impacts Zornes had on others during his life are unnumbered, yet these are no doubt only a fraction of what was to come.
The month of November will come to an end, but the love and memories people have for Zornes will not.