Oct. 7, 2017

by Ben Donovan

For Olamide Zaccheaus, life is not about the things he has but the people he fills it with. Zaccheaus, a junior running back, values the relationships in his life above all else. From his teammates to his mother, they are where he finds himself.

One glance at Zaccheaus’s Twitter timeline shows the support he has for his teammates, both past and present. His Twitter is full of retweets praising former and current teammates. But there is one teammate he supports in a different way. Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell, the former Cavalier running back, and Zaccheaus share a special bond with each other and reflect that in the jersey numbers they wear on the field.

Since coming to UVA, head coach Bronco Mendenhall has instituted a jersey number draft where players select their numbers in an order determined by their peers. Last year Zaccheaus wore number 33 but coming into the year, Zaccheaus knew what number he wanted.

“Over the summer, I realized [Mizzell’s former number] four was going to be open,” Zaccheaus said. “I was watching film one day and saw how much of a player-maker that Smoke was and I thought, ‘I have to be that person in the offense this year.'”

Zaccheaus has stepped into that role perfectly. Mizzell defined the duel-threat running back, both rushing and catching passes out of the backfield. He is currently second on the Cavaliers in rushing yards and leads the team in receptions, accounting for three touchdowns.

Zaccheaus kept it simple when asked about his relationship with Mizzell.

“Smoke is my dude,” he said.

The respect goes both ways. After graduating last year, Mizzell was signed by the Baltimore Ravens before joining the Chicago Bears. Once reaching the Bears, he had to make a decision about his own number.

“Yeah, he grabbed my old 33 in the NFL,” Zaccheaus said, laughing. “We just switched numbers.”

While his teammates inspire him on the field, the most important relationship in Zaccheaus’s life is his mother, Yimbra Mozimo.

“My mom is my everything,” Zaccheaus said. “My mom plays a huge role in a lot of the things that I do. I come from a single parent household and she has just done an incredible job raising me and my brother.”

Zaccheaus grew up in southern New Jersey, just 15 minutes away and across the bridge from Philadelphia, where he attended Saint Joseph’s Prep. Raised by his mother, Zaccheaus and his brother, Olawole, had an early role model who helped shape their lives.

“She is a strong, strong person,” Olamide said. “She taught me how to work, that is the biggest thing, and I see it throughout the years. She worked so hard to provide for me and my brother and I learned a lot from her.”

His mother has helped to shape his life in even more tangible ways as well. When it came time to decide on what high school to attend, the decision was made easy for him.

“My mom made me go there”, Zaccheaus said. “It was between two schools and we took a visit there one day. I met the high school coach, Coach Infante, and we were sitting in his office and, I’ll never forget, she said, ‘You’re coming here’. That was that.

“She made the right decision for me,” Zaccheaus followed, “I am where I am now because of the decision she made.”

When it came time to choose where he would continue his football career, his mother was right there to help guide him again.

“I didn’t have that many offers coming out of high school. It was my mom that helped me choose Virginia,” Zaccheaus said. “She didn’t really force me to go this time, it was more so ‘This is probably the school you should go to’, and I just trusted her word. I felt like she put me in the right school and right position.”

Zaccheaus has not let the distance of the University from his home in Philadelphia get in the way of his relationship with his mother. And while it took time to adapt to being away from home at first, the value his mother taught him in hard work kicked in.

“I go to her whenever I need help,” Zaccheaus said. “She knows everything that I need to do. It was an adjustment when I first got here to college, having to do some things on my own because she has really done everything for me.”

Zaccheaus doesn’t just focus on his relationships in the present. When asked about what he sees in his future, his focus was not a job or a place. It was people.

“Definitely a family,” Zaccheaus said. “I will start a family by then, a couple of dogs maybe.”

It is this focus on the people in his life, friends and family, that has carried Zaccheaus this far and he plans to continue to nuture those relationships as he prepares what is yet to come. In a program that focuses on building both football players and men, Zaccheaus is an example of a true Virginia football player.