Ertz is Ready for Mentorship Role
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Zach Ertz was already the star in Justin Peelle's tight ends room. Now Ertz is also the unquestioned leader, a role the now 27-year-old has been groomed for by his friend and former teammate Brent Celek.
The longest-tenured athlete in Philadelphia, Celek was released earlier in the offseason by the Eagles due to salary-cap constraints. Meanwhile, Ertz's backup as the move TE, the triggerman of the "Philly Special" Trey Burton, is also gone after signing a big-money deal with Chicago in free agency.
“Obviously, we lost two great people, first and foremost, and two really talented football players," Ertz admitted when talking with reporters at the NovaCare Complex. "Trey is moving on to something that he’s clearly earned, a [tight end] room where he’s the head guy. Brent, obviously, played 11 years here, which is phenomenal. He’ll probably go down as the best or second-best tight end to ever play here.”
That leaves former Green Bay tight end Richard Rodgers and a trio of young players at the position -- Billy Brown, Adam Zaruba and Joshua Perkins -- as the offseason group with a body or two certainly to be added next week in the draft and rookie free agency.
“The room’s definitely going to be different," Ertz said. "... It’s an opportunity for me to kind of move on to the next stage of my career, kind of be the veteran.”
Ertz is obviously still relatively young and in the prime of his career and he chuckled a bit when Rodgers signed and called Ertz the veteran.
“I was listening to Richard Rodgers speak when he was introduced, [saying] ‘It’s going to be great to finally have a veteran tight end [to be around].’ I was like, ‘Dude, I’m a year older than you,’" Ertz joked.
He's also noticed players like Brown, a former college receiver at Shepherd, looking up to him as well as many of the draft-eligible tight ends who all seem to mention either Ertz or Kansas City star Travis Kelce as the players they want to emulate.
Ertz credits Celek in getting him ready for a mentorship role.
“He didn’t treat me as a guy that was a competitor to him, he looked at me as a guy who could help him [extend] his career, where he didn’t have to take every snap," Ertz said. “That guy has been with me since the beginning and pretty much taught me how to be a pro in Philadelphia."
And now it's time to pay that forward with others trying to make their mark with the Super Bowl champions.
“Even though he was the leader of the room, per se [Celek] allowed me to slowly earn more of a leadership role in our room, so he kind of set me up for this moment," Ertz explained.
As for the help set to supplement the Pro Bowl selection, Ertz likes what he sees in Rodgers, who once caught 50-plus balls in Green Bay and has the size to help as a blocker.
"Richard’s a very talented tight end, we’re excited about what he can do," Ertz said.
With the younger players, Ertz and the Eagles as a whole are particularly excited about the skill set Brown brings to the table.
"We’ve got three talented tight ends that don’t know what they don’t know, but they have a lot of potential," Ertz said. "[Brown] is a freak show as an athlete. He's 260 [pounds], he played receiver in college, he's got amazing hands. He catches everything that's thrown to him. Each and every tight end that we have has got to work on his blocking, including myself, but he's got a lot of potential."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen