When he was a 9-year-old watching the Rams and Titans back in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 (as a Rams fan), Zach Ertz couldn't imagine playing in the Super Bowl. There just weren't many football stars from his hometown of Danville, California, so the current experience is an "unbelievable" one.
In short, it's been a good year for Ertz who catapulted himself into the discussion of the league's top tight ends after a team-leading 824 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. His production hasn't subsided in the playoffs either. He has 11 receptions for 125 yards with five third-down conversions.
He'll be playing in the same game with another one of the league's top tight end matchup problems in Rob Gronkowski, a player whose versatile skill set Ertz admires.
"That guy has been doing it for a long time. His second year in the league, he set the record for touchdowns from the tight end position and yards I think it's at 1,327. So he set pretty much every tight end record out there. The guy is a physical specimen. He's a freak, he's able to use his body. He obviously has a very good quarterback throwing him the ball but he would still be producing those numbers with or without Tom Brady.
"I've definitely learned a lot from him. He's a beast after the catch," Ertz said. "He's able to use his body whenever he wants to get open. Even when he's not open, the frame that he has and the ball skills that he has so he's definitely someone that's been the preeminent tight end in this league for a long time and an unbelievable player."
Ertz will be tasked with topping his 93-yard performance against the Vikings. The Patriots' defense will test the chemistry he's rebuilt with quarterback Nick Foles over the past few games.
"They're extremely well-coached. They've been doing it for a long time, in that same scheme for a long time. They play fast. They're able to adjust extremely well in the games," Ertz said. "It's going to be hard to beat them on the same play twice because they're able to kind of see what you've done earlier in the game and react to that so they're extremely disciplined. They've got a lot of good players and it's going to be a very tough test for us."
Ertz detailed that the West Coast trip from early December has the team prepared for the media frenzy and hectic schedule. The experience should come in handy helping the team tune out the distractions that are certain to come. The goal remains to bring the City of Philadelphia its first title and as a byproduct, win the game he once thought unimaginable of playing in.
"I think the city got what it deserved winning the NFC Championship. They are the best fans in football to play for. That stadium on Sunday night was the loudest and best environment I've ever been in as a player," Ertz said. "They brought it each and every snap when the defense was on the field. They're smart fans. They understand when the offense is up you've got to be quiet a little bit so we can hear everything. But the thing is that they deserve a Super Bowl, they've been starving for a Super Bowl. Players are going to do everything we can to deliver that. It's going to be an unbelievable test for us but it's something we're excited about."