Three seasons, three BCS bowl appearances, a degree from Stanford University. Zach Ertz is living the dream.
Actually, that’s not true.
“I don’t think we imagined three BCS bowls in three years would be possible,” said Ertz of his recruiting class.
Outliving the dream, apparently.
And it gets better. Ertz, a unanimous All-America selection, can officially add future NFL career to that list as well. The Alamo native and graduate of Danville’s Monte Vista High announced Monday he will forego his final year of college eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
Ertz will take the Winter quarter off to train at California Strength in San Ramon and will return to Stanford for the Spring quarter where he’ll wrap up his bachelor of science degree in Management Science and Engineering in June.
“It was tough when I first came to Stanford,” Ertz said of balancing his academic and athletic schedules. “I wanted a challenge on an off the field and could have gone with an easier degree, but I wanted to make my academic experience worthwhile.”
After what he hopes is a lengthy NFL career, Ertz hopes to get into the venture capital industry. He said entrepreneurship is a common career path for students in his major.
Ertz isn’t exactly paving the way for tight ends to make the jump from Stanford to the NFL. Last year saw Coby Fleener (Colts) make the transition, the year before it was Konrad Reuland who is currently with the Jets and Evan Moore, now with Philadelphia, did it in 2008. And, just a few hours after Ertz’s decision, fellow Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo also announced he is leaving early for the chance to play on Sundays.
“If you’re a TE recruit and you can get into Stanford, I don’t know why you’d go anywhere else,” said Ertz, who frequently exchanges text messages with Fleener.
The track record certainly backs up his statement.
After leading Stanford with 66 catches for 837 yards and six touchdowns this year, Ertz was named a finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s best tight end. It was given to Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, but several mock drafts have Ertz going first -- some show he could be a late first-round pick, but a second-round pick seems more likely.
It wasn’t until the end of Ertz’s redshirt freshman season when he thought his NFL dream was a definite reality.
“I started having some success -- caught a few touchdown passes -- and as I matured, I consistently thought it was realistic,” he said.
His six-game touchdown stretch which spanned the final three games of his freshman year, including one in the Orange Bowl, and the first three of the next season is believed to be a school record.
The allure of returning to a team next year that could potentially be better than this year’s Rose Bowl-winning version weighed on Ertz, but he ultimately decided it made sense for him to make the jump this year.
After meeting with four potential agents, Ertz decided on Steve Caric and his firm, Caric Sports Management, who also represents former Stanford teammate, and current Tampa Bay Bucaneer Chris Owusu.
While Stanford has been monumental in shaping Ertz as a player and person, he said his time at Monte Vista was key in jump-starting his development too.
“It was big. Coach (Craig) Bergman has a great program,” Ertz said.
“A lot like an NFL program with the West Coast Offense. It’s where I first learned how to run routes.”
Ertz was also a standout basketball player for the Mustangs. In his senior year, he helped guide the team to the NorCal Division I finals.
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