SE: Ertz Owns Captain Qualities in K-State QB Battle

It is common for quarterbacks to be voted captains — the position innately requires a high level of leadership. What is rare is for a quarterback to earn the honor of captain before being named the starter. 

Jesse Ertz falls in that category. 

Despite the oddity, the 6-foot-4 junior, teammates and coaches agree, is more than deserving of being one of K-State’s four captains.  

“He put in a lot of work this offseason and I don’t think it went unnoticed,” sophomore wide receiver Dominique Heath said. “Everybody really realized and saw it, and that’s why he was voted as captain.”

“There’s a strong feeling from our players that Jesse is one of the guys that provided leadership within the program,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said at Big 12 Media Day in Dallas. “Jesse is that kind of guy.”

As K-State co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel put it: “They believe in Jesse.”

For the team to believe in Ertz, he first had to believe in himself. 

The Iowa native, after earning the starting nod to open the 2015 season, injured his knee on the Wildcats’ first offensive play. An ACL tear in his right knee, a repeat injury from his senior season in high school, ended his first campaign as the Wildcats’ starter. 

Ertz went through the expected phases: disappointment, anger and, eventually, acceptance. Once he mentally turned the corner, Ertz set his sights on rejoining his team physically improved and with an enhanced work ethic. 

“Obviously, I wanted to come back and help my team, but I think the biggest thing was I came so far and I wasn’t about to fold,” said Ertz, battling senior Joe Hubener and redshirt freshman Alex Delton for the starting job again this fall camp. “You don’t go all the way there, start, play one snap, and then that’s the end. I just wanted to get back to where I was and prove that I could do it still.”

Ertz, it’s safe to say, proved capable of leading the Wildcats in multiple ways. 

“Jesse has a huge upside,” Dimel said. “He has a gigantic upside because of his speed, his accuracy throwing, and he obviously knows the offense extremely well at this time.” 

“He really works really hard and he is competitive,” added sophomore receiver Byron Pringle. “Even in conditioning, he pushes everyone really hard.” 

Ertz, who passed for 7,317 yards and 98 touchdowns at Mediapolis High School near Burlington, Iowa, has yet to display his full set of skills at the Division I level. Being named a captain, however, he already owns one part of the equation for a successful quarterback. 

“It’s very valuable because he runs the offense. The quarterback position is really one of the key things that you need on a team,” Heath said. “To be a great team, you need a great quarterback, and to be able to run the team, have leadership like that and have people look up to you, it’s very valuable for a team.”

“That’s a big thing for the football team. It shows the confidence they have in Jesse. Obviously, they’re evaluating everything Jesse does day in and day out,” Dimel added. “They see what he’s doing to prepare himself to have a good season and they’re feeding off of that and really growing from that. That’s what I see.”

What Ertz sees is his conscious effort to guide this team paying off. 

“I try to work as hard as I can, I try to do the right things on and off the field, and I try to bring people along with me learning-wise,” he said, with K-State’s season opener at Stanford set for September 2. 

Being named captain, Ertz continued, meant “the world,” a world he refused to lose.

“If it would’ve all stopped now, it would be a pretty big disappointment. I didn’t come this far just to come this far,” Ertz said. “I feel like the amount of work, the amount of hours, the amount of time you put in during your whole life and how bad you want it your whole life, you’d be letting yourself down if you didn’t make sure to finish. I’m definitely excited about being here and I just want another chance.”

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