Friday, December 20, 2013
Send a text: Zach Ertz is coming on
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- Zach Ertz had to shut his phone down. The Philadelphia Eagles rookie tight end had been getting texts and calls all Sunday evening, but it was getting late on the East Coast.
Back at home, on the West Coast, "SportsCenter" was about to come on. Ertz knew that catch would prompt another round of messages from friends too excited to remember the time difference.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz extends over Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo to bring in the ball for a touchdown in their Week 15 game.
"I had to put my phone on silent," Ertz said. "My girlfriend is in town. She always tells me to shut it off, too. It’s fun. Just seeing how many people look up to me at home, it’s kind of neat. I never would have expected that growing up."
Ertz has been coming on for the past month or so, getting more playing time and more balls thrown his way. But his one-handed touchdown catch in Minnesota on Sunday was the kind that gets replayed over and over.
"My mom was probably the most excited about it," Ertz said. "She sent me about four texts after the game, letting me know how sweet it was. That was probably the initial reaction."
Ertz was a basketball player in high school. He fits a trend where big, physical tight ends with basketball skills are making an impact in the NFL.
"I never really played football until my freshman year of high school," Ertz said. "I was a big basketball guy. Going up for a rebound is a lot like going up for a football. There’s a lot of traits that kind of convert from basketball to football.
"You’ve got to be able to attack the ball. You've got guys that are just as fast as you, but you're bigger than them. If you’re able to outjump them, or get leverage on them, you have a good chance to come down with the ball."
The touchdown in Minnesota was a good example. Nick Foles floated a pass toward the back left corner of the end zone. Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo, who at 6-foot-1 gives up 4 inches to Ertz, jumped. As he did, he held Ertz's left arm for just a moment.
Ertz reached out with the right and pulled the ball in like a long rebound.
"Nick has such good touch on the ball when he throws it that it's easy to catch," Ertz said. "Fortunately, I was able to make it with one hand."
Catches like that bring in the texts and phone calls. But it is in the other parts of the game, run blocking and pass protecting and route running, that a young tight end has to do the most work. Ertz is putting the time in and being rewarded with more offensive snaps.
Sunday’s was the first game he was on the field more than veteran Brent Celek, although that was partly due to the game plan's emphasis on throwing rather than running the ball.
"The game has slowed down for me," Ertz said. "I've gotten more comfortable each and every week. Hopefully, that continues. I think you have to be a complete tight end. Tony Gonzalez is a very good blocker; Jason Witten is a very good blocker. Those are kind of the two that stick out. Jimmy Graham is kind of formulating his way into the record books, as well."
The second-round pick from Stanford isn't afraid to chase greatness.
"That’s the goal," he said. "I want to be one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. That's the goal I set out for myself, and I’m going to hold myself to that standard."