by Ashton Mann
Virginia running back Justin Zollar walked onto the team his sophomore year after attending VCU his freshman year.

“The decision [to play football again] took place in August, the first week of college football,” Zollar said. “I had a lot of friends who were playing football and I was like ‘Man I want to play.’ I would do what I used to do in high school and look up the roster and notice that the running back spot is the same size as me and I should reach out.”

The running back from Mechanicsville, Va., prepared to play football throughout his first year at VCU.

“From September until I actually got in [admitted to UVA] in April, from Monday to Saturday or sometimes Monday to Sunday, I would just go to school, eat, lift for two hours. It was just kind of religious at that point,” Zollar said.

He tried to prepare himself for the lifestyle he would face as a Division I athlete at UVA.

“While I was at VCU I tried to assimilate and wake up early and lift, but some days I really did not feel like waking up early and I would lift throughout the day. But nothing can really prepare you for the type of mentality that you have to have here to be successful.”

The reason for wanting to return to the gridiron was simple.

“My need to prove that I know I have the capability and the know how to play division one football,” Zollar said. “I knew, for myself, that I had the ability to play at a division one school. So, I guess just that need of wanting to prove something and I kind of had a chip on my shoulder.”

In addition to football, Zollar is also extremely interested in video and video editing.

“My senior year in high school when I knew I wasn’t going to go play football I had to find something else that lit that spark,” Zollar said. “And my friend sent me a motivational video and it was really cool. I thought it would be cool to make my own motivational video, so I did in iMovie. After that point my interest just started growing and I’m the only person who will just sit down and watch commercials. My love for video editing and commercializing stuff just grew too.”

He works in the media studies department at the Weldon Cooper Center in Charlottesville.

“I’ll go out to sites and take video, but what I like most is editing the video,” Zollar said. “The most recent video I made was for a high school leader’s program at the Sorensen Institute of Leadership and Public Policy. It was a promotional video for their high school leader’s program over the summer and trying to recruit high schoolers that want to have a future in public policy.”

In addition to creating videos for his job at the Weldon Cooper Center, Zollar enjoys making videos for fun.

“I made a dynamic text music video for Yosemite by Travis Scott,” Zollar said. “I think that took more than seven [hours]. Over the summer, I would get off at 4 p.m. but stay at the office and work until 9 p.m. and then come back the next day and work on it some more. It was pretty fun to work on. Afterwards it was extremely rewarding to watch and say ‘Man I really made that’.”

Zollar wants to find a way to use his passion for video editing and content creation in this career.

“I want to go into marketing and advertising,” Zollar said. “Starting off with content creation and video editing in the advertising space. Then what I want to do is not only focus on the video editing aspect, but I want to be involved in what’s going to market, how we’re going to market, and who we’re going to market it to and then coordinate and edit it. So, I want to do that and start my own marketing and advertising consulting firm for startups and smaller companies who want that media exposure but don’t have enough capital and resources to outsource that to more expensive advertising agencies.”

Zollar chose to major in cognitive science and minor in entrepreneurship to make sure he had the right background before graduating.

“Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary major combining computer science, psychology, anthropology, philosophy and neuroscience. I like to call it the Swiss Army Knife because it has everything in there. A lot of times when you go into advertising and marketing, they advise you to take some psychology classes because you need to know how the human mind works in order to market to certain people. I thought that it would help me stand out if I already have the psychology cognitive science background where you can easily pick up the business knowledge.” 

The drive to own his own business has been a dream of his from the beginning.

 “I’ve always been business-oriented,” Zollar said. “I’ve always wanted to start my own business whether it’s a cool urban t-shirt company or the idea of having my own advertising and consulting firm. I’m always game to start up something new.”