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A journey behind the camera

Videographer Bob Zajack honored by McDonald football

It was the fall of 1957, and Bob Zajack was anxious to play his sophomore season of football at McDonald High.

A year earlier, Zajack was already a solid enough player that he earned a spot on the Blue Devils’ varsity roster and lettered as a freshman. However, Zajack suffered a shoulder injury late that season, and effects of the injury carried over to the following year. So much so that Zajack’s sophomore season ended in abrupt fashion.

Seemingly, his association with the football program had come to an end.

Fast forward to Sept. 9, 2022.

Prior to McDonald’s home game against arch-rival Mineral Ridge, Zajack was recognized by McDonald coaches and school administrators for his lifetime of service to the program.

“Right after the injury, Coach (Andy) Golubic asked if I wanted to help film our games,” Zajack said. “I figured sure, why not. I never expected anything to come of it, but at the time it kept me close to the program.”

“I didn’t really expect to do this beyond high school, but here I am.”

Indeed, nine coaches, several generations of players and 65 years after making his first trek up to the press box with camera in hand, Zajack continues to serve as the McDonald football videographer. With the exception of a handful of times throughout the years, Zajack has been a staple at McDonald games – home and away – since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States.

“I would have never imagined I’d be doing it this long, no way,” Zajack said. “The thing is, all the McDonald coaches have been nothing but class. They have all treated me so great. They give me a reason to keep coming back. And I really enjoy doing this.

“I do this for the coaches, for the team, the players and the community. And besides that, I get the best seat in the house.”

Needless to say, Zajack’s role as team videographer has had its share of changes over the years. When he first began filming games, Zajack was working with 16-millimeter and 8-millimeter film and cameras.

“With our first camera we’d have to really conserve the footage, we’d use four rolls of film per game, one roll for each quarter,” Zajack said. “Our second camera, we had to change the spools of film during halftime. We had a changing bag that basically served as a darkroom. We placed the camera inside the bag and had to swap the spools of film by feel.

“In those early days, we shot over a mile of film per season.”

The game films were then delivered to Youngstown Microfilm to be processed. If Zajack was lucky he could wait for the film to be developed, then deliver it to the coach’s house. Other times, he or a coach would schedule a time and location to pick up the film.

“Youngstown Microfilm processed the film for a lot of area high schools and colleges,” Zajack said. “They would schedule a drop-off point, maybe at an all-night gas station and we’d all pick up our films.”

The early 1980s introduced the VCR and VHS tapes which provided instant access to game footage. Today, film and tapes are a thing of the past, replaced by digital technology.

“The advancements in videography are phenomenal,” Zajack said. “Today I give the coaches my camera after a game, they upload the video and that’s that. We’ll go out for a social after the game, and the coaches are already sitting there watching the game from that night on their phones.”

While Zajack is one of McDonald’s biggest supporters who perhaps has attended more Blue Devils games than anyone, oddly enough he rarely gets to enjoy the moment as a fan. Zajack noted that the key to being a good videographer is concentration and the ability to avoid distractions.

“My main focus is to follow every play, to pan the camera and record the details and that doesn’t really allow you to necessarily absorb what’s taking place in terms of game details,” Zajack said. “Someone might say to me, ‘Wow, did you see that play,’ thinking that I’m filming, of course I saw it. But really, I don’t have the opportunity to appreciate it in the moment.”

Zajack has worked in three different McDonald press boxes. The original press box at A.A. Burkey stadium was Zajack’s first “office.” That press box was destroyed by a tornado, then replaced. Now Zajack and the Blue Devils have relocated to McDonald’s recently-opened new stadium.

“At the time I started doing this, Bud Lindsey used to film the games from the roof of our school,” Zajack said.

While Zajack never had to endure the climb atop the school, he has had his share of adventures on the road. He once filmed a scrimmage at Brookfield from the top of a school bus. Construction scaffolding served as a press box in Leetonia. The old South Range stadium featured a ladder enclosed in a cage which led to the press box.

“Things were so narrow, we’d have to climb that ladder, drop a rope, then have our equipment tied to the rope so we could bring it up with us,” Zajack recalled.

Coaches also remind him of a time when he had to climb the spikes of a telephone pole to reach his destination.

“What really stands out to me are some of the weather games,” Zajack said. “We played Mogadore in a playoff game at Kent Roosevelt, and it was snowing and so cold, I couldn’t feel my fingers.

“Playing a state semifinal game in The Horseshoe was one of the best memories, the setup was incredible.”

Zajack noted many of the players he films today share the same last name as players of the past. In fact, Zajack remembers filming Larry Carkido, the father of current McDonald principal Garry Carkido. He then filmed Garry during his playing days, and later filmed Garry’s sons.

“That’s McDonald, a close-knit community where young men and women who are raised here like to stay and raise their own families,” Zajack said.

Zajack’s own uncle, Jack, was on McDonald’s first-ever team in 1924. His father Walter played the following year. Zajack’s grandson Drew is currently a freshman who plays for the varsity team.

At the age of 81, Zajack shows no signs of slowing down. He says that at the end of each season he tells McDonald coach Dan Williams “to take my camera away from me if I’m not doing my job.” Williams insists the camera will remain in Zajack’s possession for as long as he desires.

“Bob truly doesn’t realize what he means to this program,” Williams said. “His work is second to none. I often tell him that it’s almost too good, the teams we play are better prepared for us because they have such great footage of our team when we swap films.

“We’ll watch game film on Saturday morning, and Bob will come in and critique his own work. He’s a treasure. He’s a true asset to our program and I always tell him that he’s not retiring at least until I retire.”

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