SE: Ertz Back in Action Following Injury

Jesse Ertz couldn’t have imagined a worse start to the 2015 football season. 

After spending the summer and fall working his heart out for the starting quarterback job, it was taken away from him in the blink of an eye. 

The 6-foot-3, quarterback from Burlington, Iowa, played only two snaps in the opening drive of the Wildcats’ 2015 season before suffering an injury and heading to the sideline for the remainder of the year. 

“I had high expectations for myself,” said Ertz, who recorded only one rush for five yards last season. “I had confidence in myself, my teammates and the game plan, so I was looking forward to (last season). I was incredibly disappointed when it happened. There were a lot of emotions – disappointment, and a little bit of embarrassment; I had a lot of family there.” 

Yet regardless of how tough the situation was, Ertz decided he wasn’t going to let it get him down. Instead, he was going to use it to push him forward and, despite the injury, become the best football player he possibly could. 

“I learned a lot from it,” continued Ertz. “You get a lot tougher going through things like that. You get to spend the whole season learning.” 

Though Ertz was on the sideline nearly the entire 2015 season, he never checked out of the game. He went to every team meeting and stayed mentally active within the Wildcats’ offense. He was serious about his rehab and turned what is usually a six-month rehab into a four-month recovery. He got back on the field just in time to begin working toward reclaiming his title of starting quarterback. 

K-State is now halfway through its spring practice schedule, and Ertz has been back in action practicing with his team for the first time in nearly seven months. 

“Overall, I’m just stronger, my whole body is stronger, so I feel really confident in that,” said Ertz. “I’m full go; I feel good. I’ve been 100 percent for two months or so now, and I feel fine.” 

This spring, Ertz is in the running for the starting quarterback position alongside senior Joe Hubener and redshirt freshman Alex Delton. 

Last season, Hubener took over as the team’s starter following Ertz’s injury and led K-State to its sixth-straight bowl appearance, while Delton played in just two games before suffering a season-ending injury of his own. 

While all three quarterbacks have their strengths and weaknesses, Snyder said with the competition as close as it’s been this spring, it’s too early to decide who will be the starter come August. 

“We have three guys who are very, very competitive and there isn’t a great deal of difference between the three of them in their performance level as we speak,” Snyder said yesterday afternoon. 

While Ertz will have his hands full competing for the starting job again, there’s no doubt that he is ready for it. 

During his time on the sideline overcoming injury, he realized just how much the game of football meant to him. He’s now both stronger and smarter than he’s ever been, and he’s ready to continue giving it his all this spring. 

“It makes you realize how quick you could not play anymore; a lot of things go through your mind. You just have to appreciate the next time you get the chance to play,” said Ertz. “It makes you work harder. There were a lot of benefits that came from (my injury) even though it was a tough situation.”

SPRING PRACTICE UPDATE: SNYDER HAPPY WITH TEAM’S HUNGER
The Wildcats are halfway through their spring practices, and while Snyder said there are certainly things his squad needs to work on, overall he is happy with how the past two weeks have fared. 

“I would say (the energy level) is positive,” began Snyder at yesterday’s press conference. “I have had absolutely no complaints with the effort level of our players. I think it’s been a very positive thing, but the execution has been up and down. We’re just a little over halfway through, and I think they have been inconsistent performance-wise, but as far as the effort and the attitude, I think it’s been extremely good.” 

According to senior linebacker Will Davis, the team’s energetic, high-intensity mindset comes from a dissatisfaction of how last season played out. The Wildcats entered their spring practice slate coming off a 2015 season where they went 6-7 overall and capped the year with a 45-23 loss to Arkansas in the 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. 

Throughout spring practices, the Wildcats have proven they’re hungry for more; they’re hungry to be the best. 

“Everyone is extremely motivated; we’ve been motivated all offseason,” explained Davis. “It was kind of our defensive mantra throughout the winter conditioning: we want to be the best, not just be better than last year, but be the best. The idea we’ve taken into spring ball is to just do everything 100 percent.” 

K-State fans will have the opportunity to get their first glance at the 2016 Wildcats at the annual Purple/White Spring Game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 1:10 p.m., on Saturday, April 23. 

Tickets for the Spring Game are on sale for $5 through the K-State Athletics Ticket office online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or at the main ticket office inside Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be shown world-wide on K-StateHD.TV and can be heard across the K-State Sports Network. 

To watch yesterday’s K-State football press conference with Snyder in full, please click here.

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