Zeek Bigger hoping to write comeback story with Panthers
Posted August 9
Updated August 10
Spartanburg, S.C. — Former East Carolina linebacker Zeek Bigger is fighting for his ultimate dream — securing a roster spot in the National Football League.
Bigger’s unique journey brought him to Carolina Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, where he is currently slotted as a third-string linebacker
The Gastonia native joined the team in late May as an unrestricted free agent after taking almost a full year off from football.
Bigger didn't receive an opportunity to play in the league after going undrafted out of ECU in 2016, so the former Pirate played in the Spring League last season.
“I went out and did what I did; had fun, [and] played ball,” Bigger said. “I worked on my skill level and everything I could during the time I was off.”
His time in the Spring League lasted only three games, but Bigger continued to train until the next opportunity came knocking.
Bigger had to finance his training after his time in the Spring League, so he found work with Marco’s Pizza, Dunkin’ Donuts and a moving company to stay afloat.
“Not only did it humble me, but it showed me the life that I could live when this was taken away from me,” Bigger said, wearing a Marco’s Pizza cap. “When I put this hat on it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m not going back. It’s time to grind; you’re here. You worked so hard to get here, now you have to work hard to stay here.’
"I don’t mind. I worked at Marco’s. I’ll tell anybody. I had to do what I had to do.”
Carolina gave the Gastonia native a chance this summer with an invite to rookie minicamp. Bigger wasn’t one of the three players to receive contracts immediately after camp, but he did sign a contract at the end of May before the start of OTAs.
“When I got the call I boohooed like a baby,” Bigger said. “Twenty minutes right down the street is home. My mother, my dad, [and] everybody. It’s just a blessing and I’m taking it one step at a time.”
But despite the battle to secure a job, Bigger said the entire linebacker corps has the same mindset — help the man next to you.
“We’re always willing to help each other. It’s my first year, so they’re always willing to help me," he said. "We don’t single each other out, we want to be the best group we can be.
"We never know who’s going to be kept, but as long as you have a bond and keep playing, than you never know what can happen. Any day you could get hurt off of something. It’s better to keep each other around and keep each other confident, because you never know when it could be your last time.”
Bigger is getting a top notch education at the position from All-Pro linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis regardless of whether or not he makes the team.
“It’s been overwhelming, just trying to put my seed into something,” Bigger said. “As a young one, just try to gain a lot of knowledge. It may not be this year, it may not be next year. But when it’s actually my time to play as a linebacker, I’m going to be here and do whatever I can to help this team in any way.”
Bigger now has a familiar face to go through the grind with, former ECU tight end Bryce Williams, who signed a deal to join the last week.
“We both worked out together during pro days, so we’ve been around each other a lot,” Bigger said. “That’s my dog. Well, we call each other ‘bud,’ but that’s my dog. I’m just happy for him, not only for me.”
Bigger got a taste of playing at Bank of America Stadium during Fan Fest last week, but he’ll have his first chance to make his mark Wednesday night when the Panthers host the Houston Texans in the team's first preseason game.
“I’m excited, getting to play in a game for the first time in a year; that’s all I want to do,” Bigger said. “I just want to go out here and show what type of player I am, show what I can do, show my skill level and be able to be trusted by these coaches to be able what they want me to do on either special teams or defense.”
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