Tight end Zach Ertz and his wife, Julie, are featured in the 2017 edition of ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue. Here are some behind-the-scenes images from the photo shoot.
Two years ago, the U.S. Women's Soccer Team won the World Cup in Vancouver. Zach Ertz was there to celebrate with his girlfriend, Julie Johnston, who started on defense and was a key player in America's road to the title.
Ertz was scheduled to fly to San Diego the next day to join some of his Eagles teammates in a pre-Training Camp workout but knew that he might be a little delayed. He texted Jordan Matthews to find out the routine for the next two days so he wouldn't be behind.
"I told him, 'If you don't go celebrate this World Cup with Julie, I'm going to kill you,'" Matthews said. "He'll call me on a random day at two in the afternoon and ask me how my workout was. He's strictly business. Zach is the most focused person on his goals that I've ever seen."
The hard work and dedication have paid off. Ertz and his now wife of just over three months are two of the athletes profiled in the annual ESPN Body Issue, which was released online Wednesday and will be available on newsstands Friday. Carlos Serrao took the photos for ESPN in San Diego a week before their wedding.
"The best part about being married to another athlete is just that you have someone who has been through the trials and tribulations that you have been through already," Ertz told ESPN. "The way she approaches her sport is motivating for me to do the same."
At 6-5, 250 pounds, Ertz wasn't always confident in his body image. He used to have to shed weight to make the limit to play along the offensive line in youth football. He vividly remembers arriving on Stanford's campus as a freshman and comparing himself to the other players on the football team.
"When I got to Stanford, it looked like all the other guys were carved out of friggin' granite," Ertz said. "I was coming in, still had a little bit of baby fat. And the first time being on my own, I gained some weight that I probably shouldn't have. Back then, I didn't really understand how to make your body eat for substance instead of satisfaction."
Fully understanding the dedication it takes to be a professional athlete, the two have been there for one another through both - the good times and the bad.
"I've dealt with an injury the past two years at the beginning of the season, and her ability to help me maintain focus and not get too upset or too down … She'll drop whatever she has to come out to Philadelphia, even though she's playing in Chicago," Ertz said. "It's definitely a burden to take that time off from her sport, but she knows that sometimes you have to do that in order to help the other person out."
Ertz hauled in a career-high 78 receptions in 2016 despite missing two games due to a displaced rib injury. From November 1 through the end of the season, Ertz was second in NFL in receptions only to Green Bay's Jordy Nelson. During the offseason, Julie and Zach work out together. In fact, Julie has added a daily regimen to her husband's training.
"She's helped me with my flexibility," he said. "It doesn't come naturally to me. I've created this stretching routine that I have to do each and every night. It focuses on every muscle and joint group in the body. I can't sleep unless I get it done before I go to bed."
And even with a busy offseason that included getting married and posing for ESPN, Ertz remains as committed to his craft as ever.
"Zach takes care of his body so well, it's unbelievable," Julie Ertz said. "He's so meticulous, like OCD, in what he does."