Many a little boy has clung to a dream of playing football on Sundays. For one young man who spent most of his younger years growing up in Alamo, Zach Ertz, 23, hung on to that dream, which for him just happened to come true.
I could tell you about this incredible athlete's impressive stats, such as being named All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 during his college days at Stanford. However, I'll leave it to you to look up facts about No. 86, who was drafted in 2013 and plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.
My column today is a glimpse of a day in the life of a professional athlete, kicking it at "home" and a look back on a boy who grew up setting his sights high but, while achieving his dream, never let go of his roots in our community.
I caught up with the talented and equally humble Zach, who recently made a visit back to our neck of the woods, and I conducted a little q-and-a, albeit, via email, because even off the field, this tight end is still running!
CM: Even though you're soon headed back to Philadelphia, on behalf of our community, I'd like to extend a big, "Welcome Home, Zach!" How did you spend downtime with family and friends when you were here?
ZE: The first couple of weeks I stayed at my mom's house and completely relaxed and just hung out with my family. After about two weeks, I went stir-crazy and then began to train for the upcoming season. While I am home, I train at two places, California Strength and Stanford University. California Strength is a wonderful place for me to train because the trainer, Dave Spitz, is an elite trainer while also being close to home.
CM: That being said, do you train all year? What else do you do to stay at the top of your game? Any guilty pleasures during the off season? There must be something you can indulge in that's typically off-limits during football season, such as junk food or snowboarding with your siblings?
ZE: With the demands of the NFL season, there really is no time for an "offseason." The two weeks I had off were very relaxing, but after those two weeks, you forget about the past season and immediately begin to focus on next season. I train year-round to keep my body in peak condition to perform to the best of my abilities during the season.
CM: What advice do you have for young players (T-Birds) in our community who would like to reach for the same goals you had growing up? How long did you play football before going pro?
ZE: My first year of organized football was in the seventh grade, and I absolutely hated playing. I had to lose about 13 pounds to make the weight limit and then the coaches put me at left tackle solely because I was the biggest kid on the team. After that experience, I never wanted to play football again and put all my focus on basketball.
However, going in to my freshman year, my mother convinced me to play freshman football, and since that moment, I fell in love with the game.
My message to young players or people in general is to always strive to be the best you can be, regardless of what you are doing. Whether it is academics, athletics, band or whatever your passion may be, strive to be the best, and you will never live with regret.
My parents instilled in me at a very young age that academics were the most important thing in life, if you are able to succeed in the classroom, the avenues to pursue are endless. The striving to be the best has allowed me to graduate from Stanford in three-and-a-half years while also being a unanimous All-American in football, and I will continue to have that mentality wherever I go in life.
CM: What do you miss most about "home" in the East Bay? Any rituals you partake in, such as a jaunt across the bay?
ZE: The thing I miss most about "home" is my family. We have lived in the East Bay since I was 7 years old and we have many great memories. Whether it was at Round Hill Country Club swimming, Los Cerros School for Little League Baseball, or St. Isadores for church and basketball, the memories are endless.
CM: It is evident that your family is proud and supports your career. When you are home, do you get a chance to watch your siblings participate in sports?
ZE: My family has been an incredible support system in all aspects of my life. I am one of four boys, and my brothers and I are all extremely close. Shane, Nic and Jackson have all grown up to become wonderful men and that has come through the values my mom and dad have instilled along the way. When I am home, I try to see as many sporting events as possible. Jackson right now is going into his freshman year at Monte Vista and has the potential to be the best athlete out of all of the Ertz boys.
CM: Of course the community supports you too! I think I heard the cheers all the way from the Coliseum when you scored your first touchdown, which just happened to be against the Raiders!
ZE: The support system I have in place from my family and everyone else in the East Bay has helped me become the man and player that I am today. Without that system in place, there is no way I would be where I am today!
CM: Well said and good luck, Zach! We look forward to the upcoming season!
Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- firstname.lastname@example.org.