Zack Golditch waited and waited for the phone call that would change his life and bring a feel-good story of this year’s NFL draft to fruition.
That call from an NFL team never came during the seven rounds of the draft this past weekend, but Golditch, the Colorado State lineman and survivor of the Aurora theater shooting, didn’t remain a free agent for long.
Golditch, 23, signed with the Los Angeles Chargers after the draft wrapped up on Saturday, completing his long journey from a gunshot victim in one of the worst mass shootings in American history to an NFL rookie.
"I'm super excited. It's been a long process," Golditch told Colorado’s Loveland Reporter-Herald. "It's exciting, because I kind of had an idea the Chargers would be a place I would end up, because they had a lot of interest in me from the beginning. I have a lot of family in Southern California, so it will be exciting to go out there and be close to them, so that's kind of like the icing on the cake. I think it's a great opportunity for me to go out and make the team."
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One month after committing to play at Colorado State, a teenaged Golditch entered the now-infamous Century 16 movie theater to watch the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., in 2012. In an adjacent theater, crazed killer James Holmes opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others, including Golditch.
A bullet traveled through the wall of the theater and hit Golditch in the neck. The round went clean through him and he was able to walk out of the theater amid the chaos. A fraction of an inch in the other direction, Golditch’s story would have ended that night.
“I was a 17-year-old kid going to see a movie, next thing you know I might not have come home that night. For me to still be able to play football, to be able to be a normal person and an able-bodied person is great,” the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Golditch told USA Today before the draft. “I take nothing for granted. This opportunity to continue to live my life today is amazing.”
Golditch was released from the hospital several hours after he was shot and was ready to go for high-school football season two months later.
After redshirting his first year at Colorado State, he became a regular starter as a sophomore in 2015 and an eventual standout player on the team’s offensive line. And in December, Golditch became the first person in his family to graduate from college.
Though many had expected him to be rewarded during the NFL draft, his stock suffered after he tore a tendon in his finger in January, which required surgery that forced him to miss CSU’s pro day last month.
Golditch told the Reporter-Herald that he’s been cleared for football activity and is ready to try to make the Week 1 roster.
But wherever football takes him, Golditch knows that what happened in that theater will always be with him.
“I never stopped and realized this is part of my story,” he said, per USA Today. “I shouldn't push that away, because what I hold on to right now is a story, not just about myself, but about of everyone else. I can carry that and represent them through what I do and how I carry myself. I have to embrace it.”