Chabot College quarterback Zach Lujan sure looked like the Gladiators' gift from Alaska in his collegiate debut.
The true freshman from Anchorage was 18-for-28 passing for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 32-17 win over San Joaquin Delta on Sept. 7 to kick off the season. He also carried 15 times for 71 yards, with a long gain of 42.
"He's a gamer," Chabot coach Danny Calcagno said of Lujan.
He's also a long way from home.
Lujan only arrived from Anchorage on June 15. Talk about a change of scenery. Anchorage, with a population of about 300,000, has an average winter snowfall of about 75.5 inches. It has basically two seasons, summer and winter.
Lujan says he's done some ice fishing and "all that outdoorsy-type stuff" that people associate with Alaska.
Can he survive in a "Man vs. Wild" scenario?
"I like to think so, yes," he said.
Lujan is also the son of a football coach. It shows in his mature approach and ability to assimilate so quickly to Chabot's complex spread offense. He played at South High in Anchorage, where his dad Gabby, a former player at New Mexico Highlands University, is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Zach threw for 1,368 yards as a senior, helping the Wolverines to a 2012 Alaskan state championship.
The Gladiators offense usually has freshmen quarterbacks' heads spinning. But Lujan has proved to be a quick study.
"He's come in and done a really good job in a short amount of time," said Nick Goulet, Chabot's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "We've had him here for a little over a month, and he's really picked up the offense. He's further along than any incoming freshman that I've ever had at the quarterback position. .... A smart kid."
The competition figures to get tougher when Chabot faces host College of San Mateo (1-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday. Chabot is ranked 20th in the state poll, and CSM is No. 9.
While he adjusts to the Bay Area and college life, the 6-foot Lujan has sharpened his focus on football. The level of competition demands his full attention.
"Football is more of a lifestyle here versus back home where it's just a sport," Lujan said. "It's a lot more hands-on, a lot more involved. Coach Goulet is doing a good job getting me caught up with all the plays and everything like that."
The Anchorage-to-Chabot path has been blazed before. Former Gladiators running back Asanti McCrae played for South's archrival Service High.
Why come to Chabot? It's all about the opportunity.
"There's not a lot of exposure in Alaska," Lujan said. "Not a lot of coaches come up there and recruit us, so we have to be more proactive in going out and looking for places to play. I thought a junior college would be a good route, so I contacted the coaches here at Chabot, and they liked me."
Even with Chabot's positive opener, in which Lujan completed two touchdown passes to Jake Isabel and another to Ryan Texeira, Lujan knows it's just one game.
"It's nice to get that first one out of the way, but we can't stop there," he said. "We've got to keep going."
Calcagno expected his young offense to endure some growing pains against a demanding schedule. He was delighted with the team's efforts. Jayden Rowe of Scarborough, Canada, ran for a team-high 116 yards, and Hunter Rockwell of Newark had 76 more. Isabel of Amador Valley had nine catches for 130 yards.
"I was really pleasantly surprised about how well our kids battled on both sides of ball," Calcagno said. "We have an all new O-line. Delta is a good quality program, so it was nice to see."
Of course, the outdoorsman behind center may have been the biggest factor of all.