This time, it’s Zach Ertz’s turn to play the role of cheerleader.
The Philadelphia Eagles tight end will spend most of the month in France, rooting for his wife, Julie Ertz, the star soccer player who begins play Tuesday with the U.S. women’s national team in the World Cup. The United States faces Thailand in Reims in its opener.
“He’s my No. 1 supporter and fan,” Julie Ertz told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “To be able to have him there — and obviously, hopefully celebrate with him in the end — I’m very grateful for him and his support and of course the [Eagles’ support] as well.”
Zach Ertz, whose NFL minicamp obligations end June 13, keeps a U.S. national team jersey with “Mr. Ertz” on the back in his locker at the Eagles’ training complex. “Always fun watching the Mrs!” he once tweeted. Their relationship is, as he put it, all about “#Team Ertz.”
It’s a relationship forged in sports, one that has required give and take since their March 2017 wedding. It’s one that also requires the two to spend much of the year apart. At 27, Julie is at the peak of her career; so is Zach, who will turn 29 this fall. Zach’s Eagles commitment, which pays him around $8.5 million annually, gobbles up much of his year; likewise for Julie’s career, which involves the national team as well as her commitment to the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League. She earns around $200,000 a year. But as they told ESPN, the couple find a way to put their marriage ahead of everything.
“Our relationship wasn’t built on Julie’s ability to play soccer and my ability to play football,” Zach told ESPN.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Julie added. “We want to give sports everything we have. But this career isn’t something you can do forever.”
The two met while they were attending a Stanford baseball game during college. Zach was playing football for the Cardinal, and Julie was a standout player at Santa Clara. Something clicked between the athletes, one bubbly and the other quiet. Six months later, they were an item.
“I saw Julie and thought, ‘I have to go sit next to her,’” Zach told Diablo magazine. “There was an empty seat next to her. So I sat there, and we started talking a little bit. And from there we started hanging out more, started dating, got engaged and got married.”
He proposed in that same stadium, and since their marriage, the two spend what precious little offseason they have in Northern California’s East Bay.
“Our relationship is tough. There’s no other way to put it,” Zach said. “We do a ton of long distance. And so the only way we’re able to do what we do is because of the love we share for each other and the power of our faith. I trust her, and she trusts me. Otherwise, I don’t think we’d be able to be successful.”
For Julie, “our time together is special and sacred. When we are together, we follow each other around the house, cook dinner together and watch TV while sitting as close as possible on the couch.”
Their relationship reached a new level of attention in January 2018. Zach helped send the Eagles to Super Bowl LII with eight catches for 93 yards in the NFC championship game, while Julie scored to help the national team beat Denmark, 5-1. She learned of the Eagles’ win as her team celebrated its own; video of her sweet, tearful reaction went viral.
“It was definitely a surreal experience to have the whole world watch me cry,” she told Diablo.
She wasn’t the only one in tears. Her husband shed some, too, when he was shown the video of Julie’s reaction. “It’s emotional for me not to have her here,” he said in the locker room. “But I can’t wait to get home and celebrate with her.”
Those reactions aside, the Ertzes’ competitive natures spill over into their relationship during down time together.
“Julie is a sore loser,” Zach told ESPN with a laugh. “If I beat her at something I try to keep it mellow because I know the repercussions if I go all out.”
“I want to be a good, moral person and have good values, but I don’t think I’ll ever mature about how to act about losing,” Julie said. “I hate losing so much.”
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