Three-time NFL pro-bowl tight end Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles opened up Wednesday about how his faith has evolved in the last three-and-a-half years since he began having a personal walk with the Lord.
Ertz, 29, appeared as one of three guests on the fourth episode of the new weekly YouTube program “Huddle Up!” sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Pro Athletes Outreach. The program is hosted by longtime NFL veteran and devout Christian Benjamin Watson.
The tight ends were joined by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and Ertz’s wife, Julie Ertz, a two-time U.S. Soccer Player of the Year with whom Ertz starred in a recent Visa commercial.
“Through the years, my evolution, per se, on the spiritual side of the Eagles locker room has grown,” Zach Ertz said during the program. “I came to my faith about four years ago, maybe a little less than that — three-and-a-half years ago.”
Over the last few years, the Eagles locker room has gained a reputation as being one of the most lively in the spiritual sense as players have been involved in weekly Bible studies and prayer gatherings the night before games.
Coming into the league in 2013 as a second-round draft selection by the Eagles, Ertz said he wasn’t “persuaded or tempted or forced to” begin a walk with Christ.
Rather, he said he was inspired by the examples of fellow teammates like Trey Burton, Wentz, Jordan Matthews, and Chris Maragos.
“The way that they walked each and every day was the thing that ultimately opened my eyes,” Ertz explained. “Trey Burton was in my tight end meeting room and I was a guy that was up and down with each and every play. Trey was just like Steady Eddie the whole time. So I wanted to emulate that.”
“The more highs and lows I had during football, the more nervous and anxious I got. So finally, I just gave up, surrendered everything,” Ertz continued. “A lot of it was the influence of those guys, just walking each and every day with the Lord. That has been an example that I have tried to emulate — try to invite guys by the way I live my life.”
Ertz, a Stanford University graduate, said that as he's developed into a leader on the team, he's been more “deliberate in setting up the Bible studies” and setting up the team’s Saturday night fellowship group.”
For him, it's even more special when he can set aside time to talk to his teammates in a one-on-one setting.
“In my opinion, that is the best setting to have those intimate conversations is one-on-one so people can understand that you truly care about them and want to learn how they are doing as people, not the football player,” Ertz said.
Later in the program, Ertz explained that he and a bunch of teammates, including Wentz, were involved in an Old Testament reading plan last year as part of their Bible study. This year, he said the group is engaged in a New Testament reading plan.
“You start to really understand God’s love for us and His longing for us as you dive from the Old Testament to the New Testament,” Ertz detailed. “Seeing the lengths He goes to have an intimate relationship with us, He goes so far and it is so pronounced. Then, He said that we just couldn’t do it anymore. He sent His son Jesus because He loves so much that was the only way that we would be in this intimate relationship with Him.”
Amid the “craziness” going on with the coronavirus pandemic, Ertz said the downtime has opened his eyes to the reality that “all this stuff could be taken away from us at any day that we have no control over.”
“But the one thing that will never be taken away from us is Jesus and His love for us,” Ertz contended. “I think that has been really on my heart during this whole coronavirus and how constant He truly is.”
Ertz was baptized in March 2017, the day before he got married. He told Sports Spectrum in 2018 that he always knew Jesus but didn’t have the relationship that he has now.
During the “Huddle Up!” program, Wentz, 27, shared how he just finished reading through the book of Acts and is inspired by the example of the Apostle Paul to urgently share the Gospel with others. He hopes that “fervor” will be there when NFL play continues.
“It is crazy to me, just seeing my evolution of my faith, what the word looked like when I opened it when I was 18, when I opened it when I was 22, when I opened it now that I am 27. Different things continually jump out at me,” Wentz said.
“I had seen the things I highlighted when I was 18, and what that meant to me then. It just challenges me. It is why the word is living and active and why the Bible says it is living and active. It’s always going to communicate something to you and God is going to use different pieces of the word to communicate and kind of wake you up a little bit.”
Wentz challenged aspiring college and high school athletes watching the program to “just get in the word.”
“God is going to teach you. He is going to reveal to you something every time you get into it,” Wentz promised. “Do your best to take that time.”
Watson, who recently retired after 15 seasons in the NFL, said that he has committed to reading through the entire Bible in a year.
“I have read almost all of the books of the Bible but never consecutively in a year,” Watson said. “I am doing it again. I am doing pretty well this time. Being stuck at home has helped me with that. But the word comes to life when you read it. It encourages us. It reveals so much about our sin and so much about where we lack but also about God’s grace.”
Julie Ertz said she has spent a lot of her downtime watching sermons.
“I have a really hard time with comprehension so when I read, I have to read it like a million times,” she said. “When I can go back and listen to pastors explain it better, I think I understand it a little bit better. That has been fun for us to watch.”
As for the Ertzes, the COVID-19 downtime has been a blessing for them to spend additional time together they wouldn't have otherwise with their competing professional sports schedules.