Talented young athletes often dominate several sports in elementary school and even high school. But even the most gifted focus on just one sport in high school.
Not Zach Hoffpauir.
Like a modern-day Jim Thorpe or local Bo Jackson, Hoffpauir refused to stick to one sport: After graduating from Centennial High School, he excelled in baseball and football at Stanford University. He was good enough to be drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks and played parts of two minor-league seasons.
He left baseball and returned to football, in February landing an assistant coach job at the up-and-coming University of Northern Colorado, coached by Ed McCaffrey—a former pro and father of current NFL star Christian McCaffrey, Hoffpauir’s close friend and former Stanford teammate.
The next promising chapter in his life ended suddenly May 15, when Zachary Thomas Hoffpauir, a Glendale native who became a West Valley sports legend, died in his sleep.
He was 26.
The passing of this extraordinary talent was devastating to his wide circle.
Peter Jelovic, Centennial High’s athletic director, said the school was not yet planning a memorial.
“The family has asked for time to grieve,” he said. “They will let us know when they plan to have a service.”
The son of Doug and Shannon Hoffpauir and older brother of Hillary Hoffpauir, Zachary Hoffpauir graduated from Centennial in 2012. In high school, in addition to starring in two sports—and, of course, playing both offense (wide receiver, quarterback, running back) and defense—he became known as a charismatic leader.
David Fernandez, Centennial High School’s school resource officer from the Peoria Police Department, tweeted a fond memory:
“A few years ago, Zach Hoffpauir was back at Centennial mentoring—I was standing nearby watching when a young student walked up and said, ‘Hey, who’s that?’
“I replied, ‘That’s who you want to grow up to be.’”
A University of Northern Colorado press release stated Hoffpauir “made a strong, positive impact” in his short time there.
“I am devastated by the loss of Zach Hoffpauir, a friend to me and my family since his playing days with my son Christian at Stanford. He was like a brother to our boys,” Ed McCaffrey said.
“He was a young, intelligent coach with limitless potential. Mostly he loved sharing his life and experiences with our players, who he was born to mentor. My sincere condolences to Zach’s family and his many friends.”
Zach Ertz, a Stanford teammate who is now an NFL standout with the Philadelphia Eagles, was one of many to express his emotions on social media.
“Shook up about this,” Ertz tweeted. “Zach could light up a room like it was nothing, and had this amazing, unique personality. Praying for the Hoffpauir family during this time.”
Though concussions derailed his dreams of playing pro football, Hoffpauir was a member of three Pac 12 champion football teams, played in two Rose Bowls and was an All-Pac 12 honorable mention.
David Shaw, who coached Hoffpauir at Stanford, was philosophical about the loss.
“Life is not just about what you accomplish. I believe life is about how you influence others,” Shaw tweeted.
“Every day Zach Hoffpauir gave his love and passion to his family, his teammates and the players he coached. Our prayers are with the Hoffpauir family, though Zach, you are always with us.”
Ben Copeland, another of Hoffpauir’s many friends, may have summed it up best:
“There will never be another Zach Hoffpauir and that’s okay. We were all lucky to know you for the time we did.”