Zach & Julie Ertz- Photo by Brittany Waddell
Actually, my original number with the 1980 Philadelphia Eagles was 80, which I was thrilled about because it was my number in college at Memphis State.
But when I was put on injured reserve in preseason, the team signed veteran free agent WR Luther Blue who requested that number. Being a rookie free agent with no leverage whatsoever I accepted the change to 86 when I was activated to the playing roster midway through the season.
There have been a few interesting 86’s in Eagles history. TE Charlie Young (who the Eagles traded to the Rams for Ron Jaworski) wore the number, as did “Arkansas” Fred Barnett.
This is courtesy of CSN Eagles commentator and historian Ray Didinger:
“Yes, there have been several other notable 86ers, including Bud Grant, who later became a Hall of Fame coach with the Vikings. He played two seasons with the Eagles (1951-52) as an end and in ‘52, he caught 56 passes (second in the NFL) and scored seven touchdowns. He jumped to the CFL the next year. Also, Norm “Wild Man” Willey, one of the first great pass rushers, wore 86 from 1953 through ‘57. News stories of the day report Willey had 17 sacks in one game against the New York Giants. The other notable 86 is Fred Hill who was a tight end from 1965-71 and caught the winning TD pass from Norm Snead when the Eagles won their first Monday Night Football game at Franklin Field in 1970. The Eagles Fly for Leukemia campaign began that same year to raise money for Fred’s daughter Kim who was stricken with the disease.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not comparing myself talent-wise to the current occupant of #86. As a matter of fact, he may be the LAST player to wear the number because he has a leg up on a Hall of Fame career that could result in no one else ever wearing it again. I hope that is the case.
I remember talking to Zach at the Super Bowl parade. And as I introduced myself to him I mentioned that I wore #86 previously.
His response was, “I hope I am doing your number justice and you are proud of me.”
Is anyone really that humble? Apparently Zach is.
Zach Ertz is my favorite #86—and I can handle being in second place. Even with myself.
It was a pleasure to be able to talk with Zach for the following Q&A:
Ken: Describe your emotions when the clock struck 0:00 in Super Bowl LII and you secured the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
Zach: My reaction after the game, when the clock hit 0:00, was that there had to be one more play or something because there was no way we had just won the Super Bowl! After it set in that we actually won, it was just run towards everyone and celebrate with my teammates. It still is crazy to me that that was the first Super Bowl in this city’s storied history, but it truly is an honor to be a part of the first team to ever do that.
Ken: Were you aware of the decades of frustration Eagles fans endured and how much this victory meant to them?
Zach: I don’t know if anyone truly knew how much that win meant to this city until after the game. As players, we know this city loves their Eagles, but after the game I truly started to understand the emotional connection this city has for us. With that being said, that is the reason why I LOVE playing in this city!
Ken: I was fortunate enough to be a front-row guest of the Eagles as they welcomed the alumni to participate in the parade and ceremony at the steps of the Art Museum. What are your most vivid memories of that day?
Zach: My most vivid memories from that day were just the joy that everyone had. That game and that win meant so much to this city, so to be able to go out and celebrate with everyone and see the happiness this city had was truly special.
Ken: Explain to our readers what you physically go through during the season, and what you do to help your body recover in a few short days to play the next week’s game?
Zach: Football is obviously a physically demanding game and it takes a lot to get through each week and prepare yourself to play at a high level each Sunday. It starts with a lot of massages, acupuncture, lifting, eating well, sleeping, more massages! Ha-ha! With this being my seventh year, I have found a routine that works for me and that is the most important thing—just sticking to that routine and not taking any shortcuts.
Ken: Talk to me about your relationship with Doug Pederson and give us your opinion on why he is a successful head coach.
Zach: Coach Pederson is an amazing coach. Obviously, he’s a great play-caller during the game and a great motivator throughout the week. However, the thing that separates him is his ability to get the best out of his players. He’s always able to relate to us because he has been in our shoes and understands what it takes to be successful. He consistently finds ways to motivate us and keep us pushing each other to be at our best each week.
Ken: You signed a $42 million contract extension in 2016. What is your opinion of the economics of pro football and do you foresee any significant changes in the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA)?
Zach: I’m still learning about the economics of pro football and the whole CBA. Obviously, I feel grateful that I am able to play football for a living and provide for my family through my sport. I think there will be some significant changes in the next CBA and I’m looking forward to being a part of the players union during those discussions.
Ken: What is more nerve-wracking: being in the locker room prior to a big game, or in the stands watching Julie play for the World Cup?
Zach: Watching Julie is definitely more nerve-wracking than playing. When I’m playing I always feel like I have some semblance of control and that if I play well and execute we have a good chance of winning the football game. However, when I am watching Julie I am just like every other person in the stadium… with just a little more personal investment! I just hope at the end of the day that she is healthy and plays to the best of her abilities.
Ken: What are your plans after your playing days are over? Coaching? Broadcasting?
Zach: When I am done playing I honestly do not know exactly what I am going to do. I think about maybe going back to school and getting an MBA or maybe coaching high school football. However, what I do know for certain is that Julie and I are going to enjoy spending every day together and not have to worry anymore about long distance.
Ken: What characteristics do you possess that makes you successful as a player and person
Zach: I think the number one characteristic that I have is a relentless work ethic. I want to give this career everything I possibly have so when I am done I can look back and say I did everything I possibly could to be the best player I could be, and I wouldn’t change a thing!
So how did a young woman from Mesa, Arizona end up becoming a national soccer star? From her first published book, Chase Your Dreams: How Soccer Taught Me Strength, Perseverance and Leadership, Ertz shares, “I don’t think I was especially talented or any better than the average nine-year-old but I was motivated and adventurous.” Challenging herself and her love for the sport over the years landed her on the Chicago Red Stars and eventually representing the United States in two FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments as crowning champion in both titles.
Aside from soccer, her book also touches on her personal life behind the uniform and The Ertz Family Foundation, which is a non-profit dedicated to helping establish opportunities for families in need. Chase Your Dreams can be purchased at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon, and is a solid inspirational read for our younger generation, especially young athletes.
Julie was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me and answer a few questions:
Alex: Being a professional athlete, it’s clear that health is a top priority. Can you share your top three healthy habits?
Julie: One, have healthy snacks around so when you get hungry you have better choices. Two, I always have a packet of some sort of electrolyte on me to put in my water. It’s hard for me to drink water all day so mixing in flavor, and anything to help stay hydrated, is a plus. Three, I have my vitamins set out every day so I can make sure I get my daily needs.
Alex: What are your favorite hobbies outside of soccer?
Julie: Some favorite hobbies are hiking, watching football, yoga, and shopping!
Alex: How has Zach influenced you as a person and/or athlete?
Julie: Zach gives me so much perspective and ultimately makes me a better person. He is also very routine and diligent with his recovery, and that has pushed me to be a better athlete.
Alex: What is your favorite thing to do with your husband? Do you both workout together?
Julie: My favorite thing to do with my husband is watch our shows. It’s a time for us to reflect and relax which we rarely get to do. We also play video games or work on our foundation. We love to work out together and come up with new training sessions.
Alex: Was there a difference in emotion between winning the first World Cup vs the second World Cup?
Julie: Yes! I was very emotional in 2015 because my journey to get there was very new and difficult. Being so young I was exhausted and new to this type of lifestyle. As I have gotten older my perspective has grown. I have changed and become very grateful for my opportunities, and feel like I enjoy playing more. So 2019 was very unique because I was overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement to share this moment with my family.
Alex: What is something unique we might not know about you?
Julie: Oh, I hate this question, it always make me feel not interesting. I have an obsession with shoes!
Alex: If you could hang out with two people (alive or dead), who would they be?
Julie: Jesus and my husband.
Alex: If you could ask (famous soccer player) Lionel Messi one question, what would it be?
Julie: I would hope I could get a question out. I would be very excited! I would ask him what moments in his career or life changed his perspective for the better.
Alex: What is the hardest part about being a professional athlete?
Julie: The time sacrificed away from loved ones.