Roseburg High senior Zack Mandera made it official Thursday night.
A few hours after being named Class 6A second-team all-state as a linebacker by the state’s coaches, Mandera signed his name in triplicate to an NCAA letter-of-intent to Portland State University.
Mandera will take his talents to the Park Blocks next fall with hopes of helping the Vikings continue their turnaround under head coach Bruce Barnum.
At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Mandera will have an opportunity to earn playing time immediately with the Vikings, who finished 4-7 overall this year after enduring a winless season in 2017.
PSU had both of its starting middle linebackers exhaust their eligibility, and Barnum pointed to defense as an area of immediate need in comments about the nine players signed during the early period.
“We have larger needs on defense than on offense this year,” Barnum said. “We will take a bunch of guys up front and in back this year. It’s also the ‘Year of the Cheetah.’ We have to get fast. The faster we get the better we will be.”
For his part, Mandera fell in love with Portland State during an unofficial visit to the campus with his father, Mike, over the summer.
Zack Mandera made an early connection with recruiting coordinator AC Patterson and with defensive coordinator Payam Saadat.
“The coaching staff up there is amazing,” Zack Mandera said. “On my unofficial and official visits, they made me feel at home. Talking on the phone, texting, the mail — getting handwritten letters — that was awesome and made the decision easy to make.”
He made his decision last August, after concluding the summer baseball season with Dr. Stewart’s in the state tournament, and other schools cooled their interest. Oregon State had expressed interest in him in both football and baseball, but was unwilling to commit any scholarship money.
“Once I committed everybody kind of backed off a little bit,” Mandera said. “A couple schools that had talked to me, but after I committed they all kind of backed off. Oregon State was talking to me, but there weren’t any scholarships involved. They didn’t want to start anything and I wanted my school paid for.”
Mandera took his official visit to PSU on Dec. 14-16 and had his commitment locked in by the visit, and there was no wavering. He was so committed, that his father got a “PSU Vikings” tattoo on his left forearm.
“It proves to kids that if you work hard, make good decisions on and off the field, that being a hard working kid and doing the right things is going to pay off,” Roseburg High coach Dave Heuberger said.
Mandera was named the Southwest Conference defensive player of the year this fall after Roseburg went 3-6 overall and 1-3 in SWC play. He has been a three-time SWC all-league pitcher in the baseball season and will return to the diamond this spring as RHS pursues a SWC title.
Mandera’s skills in baseball were a selling point to Barnum and the Vikings’ staff, Heuberger said.
“It’s not how is this kid, can he play what level at college,” Heuberger said. “He dominates those situations.”
On the field accomplishments aside — and Mandera has plenty of those as a four-year letterman in football and three years in baseball — Mandera’s personality has been a factor in his success, and that is a credit to his parents, Mike and Elicia Mandera, and the family support he has enjoyed.
“The really great ones treat people great,” Heuberger said. “Every great athlete I’ve had the pleasure to be around, they’re good to people. We’re excited that he gets to go up and play at Portland State and represent Roseburg for the next four years.’
Mandera is the last player to have started for former RHS coach Thurman Bell, who retired after 45 years on the sidelines at the end of Mandera’s freshman year. He has spent the last three seasons under Heuberger’s tutelage and developing through his own dedication and hard work in academics and athletics.