No two ways about it

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Zach Farrar is a package deal no matter what.

The sophomore wideout with Youngstown State’s football team is on mission to maximise his earning and athletic potential. After two games with the Penguins (0-2), he’s the team’s leading receiver with nine catches for 158 yards, but he isn’t necessarily chasing a spot on a NFL roster. While he’s on scholarship at YSU for football, he is still pursuing a career as a professional baseball player.

“I started playing football my freshman year of high school, but I’ve been playing baseball since I was three years old. Baseball is my passion, but football pays the bills, you know what I’m saying?” Farrar said. “I try my best in both and give 100 percent in each sport. That’s where my head is at.”

In his head, he’s a two-sport athlete and it’s going to take a pretty lucrative deal to get him to specialize one way or the other. When he was recruited out of Southlake, Texas in high school, he turned down school after school that wanted him exclusively for one sport. Then he was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 2016 MLB draft, but their offer wasn’t good enough.

“The signing bonus when I got drafted was $400,000. The slot I was supposed to be drafted was the seventh round, so they gave me seventh-round money in the 26th as a steal type of thing,” Farrar said. “I didn’t think that’s what I was worth as a prospect coming out of high school so I [declined].”

He eventually found a coach who shared his two-sport dream: Youngstown native and then-Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops. Farrar wore a redshirt in Stoops’ final season before his retirement. But Stoops’ successor, Lincoln Riley, wasn’t a fan of Farrar’s baseball ambitions.

“When [Stoops and Riley] came to my house, Riley was saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll let you do it,’ but he was only saying that because that’s what Bob was saying,” Farrar said. “With Riley, it was like I wasn’t doing 100 percent of the things that I needed to do at Oklahoma and he wanted the change where I go straight to football.”

Farrar left the Sooners for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to get himself back on the recruiting trail. When head coach Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Brian Crist met with Farrar, they indicated that the Penguins were amenable to his desire to play baseball and he is expected to walk onto the team this spring. Pelini has had multi-sport athletes on his team in the past. Last year, wideout Lasander Washington ran for the track team in the spring.

“Coach Bo was a multi-sport star in high school. I played four sports in high school. As a staff, we like athletes who play multiple sports. It shows that they’re talented and that they have all kinds of skillsets,” wide receivers coach Tim Marlowe said. “We encourage guys to play multiple sports. Is it ideal? No. You might miss some time with them in the spring, but if he can help [YSU baseball coach Dan Bertolini] in the spring, so be it. We’ll be a great athletic program as a whole.”

Farrar, who was drafted as a center fielder, finds time to practice his swing every day. He’ll have three more years to show he can get it done in the fall and spring.

“The sky is really the limit. I haven’t really reached anywhere near where I need to be in both sports,” Farrar said. “I’m going to keep working in both sports. I keep it crisp on both.”