Zach Zwinak is rather sheepish off the football field for a guy who's not afraid to rough up defenders on it.
He said he's still getting used to all the attention and media that has come with being Penn State's primary running back over the past few games. Still, he doesn't have the celebrity status on campus as Matt McGloin might have, but he said he likes to keep to himself anyway.
This Saturday at Iowa, the Hawkeyes had planned to attack Penn State with a running back who, like Zwinak, came out of nowhere to find major success this season. Sophomore Mark Weisman will likely not play against Penn State due to an ankle injury. Iowa is expected to turn to true freshman Greg Garmon or sophomore Jordan Canzeri, who hasn't played a snap in 2012, to carry the football.
Still, Weisman's numbers in 2012 certainly make a statement. He sits at seventh in the Big Ten with 695 all-purpose yards, and he's only started half of a season.
The transfer from Air Force, who walked on to Iowa in 2010, didn't even rise from the scout team until this season. Following 2012 spring practice, he was only the second-string fullback.
But as starting Iowa tailback Damon Bullock and Garmon both dealt with injuries entering the Hawkeyes' fourth game, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz gave Weisman the nod as starter.
"Weisman just kind of fell into our laps a year ago," Ferentz said. "A couple of weeks ago, we said, 'Let's take a look at this guy at running back and see what he does.' Probably not any different than No. 28 [Zwinak] from Penn State. I think both those guys are similar type guys -- just really good football players that have really helped their teams, respectively."
Zwinak's 385 all-purpose yards pail in comparison to Weisman's, but the contributions of Penn State's sophomore tailback are undeniable.
Zwinak also got his first opportunity in his team's fourth game of the season, in which he rushed for 94 yards against Temple. One week later, Zwinak rushed for 100 yards plus two touchdowns against Illinois. A week after that, he gained 121 on the ground and scored a touchdown against Northwestern.
If Silas Redd hadn't transferred and Bill Belton hadn't injured his ankle against Ohio, it's possible Zwinak wouldn't have had a significant run all season. Instead, he runs over defenders and sends many hobbling to the sidelines, via his trademark, physical running style.
"I don't work with Zwinak," Ferentz said. "But watching him on film, I'm guessing he wasn't just sitting around eating oranges. Chances are he was really working hard, too. He got his opportunity, and he's done a great job."
Neither Zwinak nor Weisman had the ideal live game experience for typical first-team running backs of a major conference school, but Ferentz said it isn't in his or Bill O'Brien's best interests to accept a bad situation.
"It's like losing a game, you got one of two things," Ferentz said. "You can sit around and cry about your problems, or you can try to find solutions.
"When things like that happen, it's good to open up the door of opportunity for other people. That's what Mark's done. He's stepped in there, and more importantly, he's paid his dues, and he prepared, so when he got his chance, he took it."
Unfortunately for Iowa, Weisman will likely sit the bench Saturday as he nurses his ankle.
McGloin, who knows better than anyone the challenges of climbing a depth chart, said he hoped to see Weisman in action Saturday.
"You're definitely aware of who he is because of what he's done this season," McGloin said. "He's a good hard running back. It's definitely good to see another kid have success who started out as a walk-on."