Alive and kicking in Portland

To the Portland State community, he was Zach Brown. To the professional football world, he is Zach Ramirez. The former First Team All-American Vikings kicker has been signed by the local 4–10 arena football team, the Portland Thunder.

“This is an opportunity here in Portland and I train anyway, so if I can kick with a team, it’s even better. I feel like the coaches here are looking for their players to go to the next level,” Ramirez said after the Thunder victory over the New Orleans VooDoo Thursday night.

Ramirez was previously invited to tryouts for the Thunder where he was informed that he was out-kicked by
Michael Braunstein, who later became the original starter for Portland.

“I didn’t really know if this was going to happen again, I kind of forgot about it because I was focused on the NFL. They called me in the morning while I was at work and I signed four hours later,” Ramirez said.

The kicker came about the opportunity after he had been introduced to owner Terry Emmert after a PSU football game, and his phone rang a few weeks later with an invite to the Portland Thunder tryouts.

When asked about the name swap, Ramirez said, “The change really started at Portland State. They got tired of me being called Zach Brown, and then they have to go to the airport and have me legally known as Ramirez. I went by Brown because that’s the name my mother married into when I was two years old. Eventually I was told to stick with one name. After college, traveling to different NFL teams, they didn’t want to mess with it so they told me to just go by Ramirez because that’s what they were going to call me.”

Ramirez finished his PSU career with 10 school kicking records. In 2012 he was set to break the Big Sky Conference record for field goals before he was injured on a late hit after the first extra point of his senior season.

Despite his college career ending with an injury, Ramirez has fully recovered, and with what could have been viewed as a major setback, has far from slowed his pursuit of an NFL job. His first professional football exposure came in Seattle, where he attended the Seahawks mini camp. From there, Ramirez found himself in Green Bay, and nearly grabbed a roster spot.

“I kicked well, but the last day, Mason Crosby kicked better,” he said.

After what could have been the last straw in the football career of Ramirez, he was off a year later to participate in a tryout for the New York Jets. Then came a mini camp with the Kansas City Chiefs. Upon arriving home from a long, unsuccessful trip, Ramirez found himself back at the airport the very next day headed for Cleveland to try out for the Browns just a few weeks ago.

“I felt that I kicked well and right now I am just waiting to see what happens,” Ramirez said.

When discussing his current one-year contract, Ramirez clarified that the Thunder will comply and release him if an NFL opportunity presents itself.

Not only was Zach an outstanding football player, but he had offers to play soccer at the collegiate level and an opportunity that would have taken him overseas with a career as a soccer player. PSU had extended a full scholarship offer to the future star kicker, and because he ultimately made the decision to stay here, he felt that the U.S. provided a better opportunity to further a career in football than it did soccer. He made his decision to continue in football, even though PSU was his only scholarship offer.

Despite being denied an NFL roster spot so far, the former Viking has far from lost his determination to make it to the NFL. “All I need is a phone call and that one chance.”