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Champions

Apr 25 2018
Photo by
Christopher Szagola/AP Images
Photo by
Christopher Szagola/AP Images
Julie Ertz
U.S. Women's National Team
Zach Ertz
Philadelphia Eagles
Apr 25 2018

Julie Ertz
The whole world has now seen me weeping in public. Thanks, Zach.

Zach Ertz
I wanted to cry, too, honestly. We had just beat the Vikings in the NFC championship game — and it started to sink in that we were going to the Super Bowl and I could barely keep it together. More than anything, I just wanted to call my wife. So after I hugged some teammates and took in the confetti, I sprinted straight to the locker room to FaceTime Julie.

Julie
Every winter, we have camp for the U.S. women’s national team, so I knew I’d be away, but I don’t think it really sunk in until the playoffs were about to start that I wouldn’t be able to see any of Zach’s games … unless they made the Super Bowl.

Zach
No pressure.

Julie
We ended up having a match against Denmark literally at the same time as the NFC championship game, so it was a whole thing, like … Do I check my phone at halftime? Do I have the p.r. person give me some kind of a thumbs up or thumbs down or something? In the end, I decided to just try to lock in and forget it was even happening until the final whistle. Of course, at halftime, we got to the locker room, and I was looking at my teammates kind of cringing like, “Tell me! No, don’t tell me!” Finally, someone just kind of said something vague, like, “They’re doing good.” And that was it. We went back out to the field, and I tried to block it out.

When the final whistle blew, I tried to find out the final score as soon as I could, but there was a lot of chaos. I was asking around, but nobody had the answer right away. I had actually hurt my knee during the game, and I was in a decent amount of pain, so the trainer came up to talk to me as well, and I was just like, “I’m good! I’m fine! Did the Eagles win?!” Finally, somebody from the media came up and told me that the Eagles were going to the Super Bowl… and then I just lost it. So now there’s video of me crying on the Internet, forever. It was just so overwhelming, and I was so proud of him, because we’ve been on this ride every step of the way, together, ever since college.

Zach
Julie is going to tell you there was only one seat open at the baseball game. I know it.

Julie
There was only one seat open. For sure. See, he likes to make it seem like he was really courageous.

Zach
This was at a regular season Stanford baseball game. There were plenty of empty seats.

Julie
See, this is where his memory is faulty. It was the student section. That’s the key. It was Friday night. I was with one of my friends, and all of a sudden this guy happened to sit beside me. In the only remaining seat.

Zach
There were so many seats! I could’ve sat anywhere! I want everybody to know that I chose that one by design.

Julie
Uh-huh. Anyway, I remember Zach was pretty shy. His big move was to offer me some of his sunflower seeds. It was a pretty good move, actually. For the rest of the game, I did most of the conversation legwork, and any time there was an awkward pause or something, he’d just offer me more seeds. I probably ate like 500 seeds that night.

Zach
Don’t underestimate the romantic power of sunflower seeds.

Julie
Neither of us knew the other was an athlete at first. That just wasn’t a huge part of our conversations. I was playing soccer for Santa Clara, and obviously Stanford is our huge rival, so anything Stanford-sports-related I was like, Yeah, no thanks. Even when I found out he was on the Stanford football team, it took me a long time before I even saw him play in person. Fast forward to seven years later, and my husband is going to the Super Bowl. It was so overwhelming.

Zach
The whole Super Bowl week was insane. I mean, it’s obviously the type of thing you dream about when you’re a kid. I remember watching the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams team when I was a kid. I was so into them when they went to the Super Bowl in 2001, and you kind of think, Man, wouldn’t that be so cool to play in a game like that someday? But it doesn’t feel like it’ll ever actually happen.

And, honestly, the whole week was such a whirlwind, with media and practices and everything, that it didn’t hit me until this one moment … I remember standing on the sidelines and just looking at all the cameramen and being in awe. There were like 10 times the cameras compared to a regular-season game. The look of everything is so different compared to the regular season and even the playoffs. And then there’s this unique thing about the stadium in Minnesota that made it really special, too. During warmups, all the lights are on. But then as soon as the game starts, the lights over the crowd go down, and it’s almost like theater lighting — it’s different from anything I’ve experienced. The field becomes a stage. And I just remember standing there, and everything hit me at once. This is the Super Bowl.

I imagine it was the same for Julie at the World Cup in 2015. At some point, the moment just hits you.

Julie
Yeah, that first game day, against Australia, was like a movie, almost, the way the excitement built up. Our locker room was pretty far away from the field, so you couldn’t hear anything at first. It was so quiet. We went through our pregame stuff in the locker room just like any other game, but as soon as we opened the doors, we could hear this faint chanting.

U-S-A!

U-S-A!!

U-S-A!!!!

It got louder and louder with every step down the tunnel. And finally, when we got out to the field, it was just like … Wow. I still get goosebumps even thinking about it. And every game it got louder and more exciting. We were in Canada, so we weren’t sure what to expect. But so many of our fans made the trip, and they kind of took over. That moment was really special.

Zach
World Cup was amazing for me, just being able to see my wife accomplish something she’d worked her whole life for. Celebrating with her after the final at the postgame party made me feel like I had won something too! 😀

Steven Freeman/The Players' Tribune

Julie
Yeah, celebrating with me was probably an easier task than when I tried to get on the field after Zach won. I can usually compose myself watching Zach play. His mom has a more difficult time. She watches most of the game peeking through her fingers. At least that’s how she is when the Eagles have the ball. But the Super Bowl was a little more difficult for everybody. We were in a special section with all the Eagles’ family members, and we were standing up for pretty much the entire fourth quarter. Really, everything went crazy in our section after he scored that go-ahead touchdown in the fouth quarter. And, yes, IT WAS A TOUCHDOWN.

Zach
Man. You live for moments like that. Talk about something you’d draw up in the backyard when you’re a kid … Two minutes left, down by one in the Super Bowl. Up until that point, I had been getting double-teamed on most third downs. But our coaches did a great job scheming to get me one-on-one with the safety, and what can I say? Nick Foles made a perfect throw, and when I caught it, I felt my body going down, so I tried to gather myself. I took three steps, then dragged a fourth across the ground just to make sure, then I dove across the plane. I had no doubt in my mind it was a touchdown. No doubt. Then the referees started the video review.

Julie
It only took a couple minutes, but it felt like an hour. I like to think I’m pretty well versed in the rules of football, but I had no idea what was taking so long with that one.

Zach
I remember me and Trey Burton were standing on the field, just waiting and waiting, and he was like, “Man, if they overturn this, I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the city of Philadelphia. There’s gonna be riots and rebellions.” Even after they confirmed the score, nobody on our team really celebrated for more than a minute or two. We all remembered what Tom Brady had done the year before, and like, 50 other times before that. We knew the game wasn’t over. Honestly even when Brandon Graham got the strip sack, and we went down and kicked the field goal … we still didn’t think it was over. It’s Tom Brady.

Julie
From the moment Zach scored, our section went crazy. A bunch of family members of the Eagles players had started to leave their seats and run down toward the gate where the security guards were standing. They wanted to be the first on the field when the clock hit zero. So I started to walk down, but then New England got the ball back, and I felt like I was jinxing it. So I ran back up to my seat. Then they had the strip sack, and I ran back down. But then New England got the ball again, so I ran back up to my lucky spot. All in all, I probably ran up and down the steps like four times in a full sprint. I was standing at the top of the stairs when Tom threw the Hail Mary.

Zach
When Tom threw that final Hail Mary, time just stopped. The ball just hung in the air for I don’t even know how long. Forever. Even after the ball hit the ground, it took like, five seconds for it to sink in and everybody to realize what happened. We all looked up at the clock and saw the 0:00.

Wait, is that it? Did we win?! We Won!

BrittRenePhoto

Julie
It was the same way in the stands. Did we win? Can we go? Just a surreal moment. I went sprinting down the stairs and out onto the field, literally as fast as I’d sprint in a USWNT game. I swear it was the fastest I’ve ever run in my life. By the time I got to Zach, he was up on that winner’s stage or whatever, and when he saw me he waved me up to join him. But I wanted him to enjoy the moment with his teammates. It was incredible.

Zach
I’ll always appreciate the work we had to put in as a team to get it done. That’s the one thing that I don’t think people fully understand. There’s so much work and sacrifice that goes into winning anything — whether it’s a World Cup or a Super Bowl. Julie and I have had to spend a lot of time apart over the last few years. It’s just part of the deal. But it’s definitely a sacrifice. I’m already preparing to go out and help us repeat as champions, and she’s gearing up for the World Cup in 2019. It’s a grind.

Julie
The cool thing is that we’re able to lean on one another for motivation. And anytime one of us is presented with a challenge, the other is always there for support. It’s funny, people always ask us if we train together, and we actually do, because our sports are so different that we can help each other in different areas.

Zach
Well, you’re never going to see me on a treadmill next to her for an hour. I think I tried it once, for like 20 minutes. Never again! But seriously, I’ll never take for granted how lucky I am to have the family that I do — and the wife I have in my corner. Nobody will know everything we’ve been through together. The last year has been incredible, and I finally got my World Champions hat to put alongside hers in the house.

Julie
Well, American champions. But still good! You’re definitely the most recognized Ertz in Philly. Most of the time, people just come up to me and say “Hey, we love your husband.”

I always reply, “Not as much as I do.”

Julie Ertz
U.S. Women's National Team
Zach Ertz
Philadelphia Eagles