February 28, 1909: Athlete John Zontini Born in Boone County

Feb 28, 2018

In his freshman year playing football at Marshall College (now University), he rushed for 865 yards, and his season of 9.5 rushing yards per carry is still a Marshall record.
Credit e-WV / WV Humanities Council

John Zontini was born in Boone County on February 28, 1909. To this day, he’s considered one of the greatest athletes in West Virginia history.

He was nicknamed the “Sheik of Seth” because of his great football career at Sherman High School, located at Seth in Boone County. His 1929 rushing average of 27 yards per carry remains a state high school record. In 1931, he also set the state javelin record with a throw of 172 feet, one inch.

In his freshman year playing football at Marshall College (now University), he rushed for 865 yards, and his season of 9.5 rushing yards per carry is still a Marshall record. Choosing a pro baseball career, Zontini played outfield for the Charleston Senators.

He later moved to eastern Virginia, where he died in 1981 at age 72. The “Sheik of Seth” was inducted into the West Virginia Sports Writers’ Hall of Fame and the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame. Sherman High School named its football facility Zontini Field in honor of John Zontini and his brothers, Red and Louis, who were also star athletes at the school.