FAIRFIELD — Landon Zurliene’s senior schedule just got a whole lot busier being a three-sport athlete.
With the IHSA’s recently updated athletic calendar, Zurliene is set to compete in basketball, football and track and field over the course of the next five months. But keeping busy has never been a weakness for the senior.
“I’m just excited to play,” said Zurliene. “My teammates and I were willing to take whatever kind of season we could get.”
First up for Zurliene is basketball season. In his junior year, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged 15.3 points and 4.2 rebounds with 56 three-pointers, 56 steals and 23 blocks. On top of leading the Mules to a 28-5 record, Zurliene earned accolades on the All BFC 1st team, All Southern Illinois-SICA, AP Honorable Mention All State, IBCA Special Mention All State, Lawrence County All Tournament Team, Eldorado Holiday All Tournament Team, and CWCIT All Tournament Team and Tournament MVP.
Zurliene stays busy playing basketball for his traveling team, the Illinois Bears, where he teams up with Cobden brothers Tyler and Noah Franklin, Sesser-Valier’s Garrett Gunter, Benton’s Reece Johnson, Nashville’s Buzz Ritzel and Norris City-Omaha-Enfield’s Joe Melton.
Playing alongside Johnson sparks conversation of when Benton defeated Fairfield in Class 2A regionals last season.
“Obviously, with Reece playing on my travel team means he’s going to bring up our regional loss to them last year,” said Zurliene. “We’d love to get another shot at them this season.
“It’s definitely a lot of fun playing with those guys because we know each other and have played together a long time. We enjoy competing together and share the same passion for the game.”
Zurliene has been a member of the Bears since the sixth grade. Heading into his final year of high school, he’s received offers from McKendree, Quincy and Rend Lake College in NJCAA Division-II.
The path to college offers has required a lot of growth and hard work from Zurliene. He has grown three inches since the beginning of high school while consistently adding muscle through weight training programs with his father and life coach Justin Townsend.
“It’s great having dad as coach because he pushes me to be my best,” said Zurliene. “On days where it’s a grind, he helps get me to a different level when I’m not always going to have the energy.”
Townsend coaches his son in football, track, and as his strength and conditioning coach.
Looking at Zurliene’s jump between his sophomore and junior season in basketball says all it needs to about the relationship with his basketball coach, Scott McElravy, and his father’s guidance: 10.3 ppg with a 41-percent shooting clip from beyond the 3-point arch and 74 total.
The Mules' starting five in 2021 will feature Zurliene as the top scorer on most nights alongside Noah McElravy, Colin Massie, Brandon Lane and Blake Pruitt.
As far as keeping in shape, Zurliene noted that his workout routine doesn’t change much between sports. He runs track to keep up his cardio with sprint relays and triple jump. To put on muscle he does the traditional bench press, squat rack, deadlift and power clean regime.
Football season begins in March where Fairfield has finished 10-1 in each of the past two seasons. Zurliene at quarterback completed 62/121 pass attempts for 992 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. On the ground he rushed 28 times for 111 yards and three scores.
The Mules are well-known for having a defense that shuts down opposing offenses on a weekly basis, which has made Fairfield the team to beat in the Black Diamond Conference nearly every season under Townsend, especially over the last four.
Zurliene expects to finish on top of the football standings again despite having a shortened schedule.
“I’m very confident in all of my teammates to make big plays,” said Zurliene. “I feel like if we can limit turnovers then our defense can give us confidence. Chester will be good, Eldorado is always competitive and Johnston City will be better with Austin Brown at quarterback. Carmi’s another school that always finds a way to be competitive and I expect Edwards County and Vienna to be down this year.”
When Zurliene is standing behind center he’s doing his best Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady impersonation. “I like to take little things from them and put it in my game the smallest way I can,” he said.
Since the Green Bay Packers season ended, Zurliene has been watching LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s a 4.0 student that likes to spend time with friends and family when he’s not doing homework. Outside of that he only knows one thing…how to compete.
“My life has been filled with sports since I was a kid,” said Zurliene “I’m just preparing my body to play at the next level and know things will play themselves out.”