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Julie Ertz has a world championship and Player of the Year honors in her sport. So she’s already got an edge on husband Zach – that is Womens Jake Gardiner Jersey , if they were competitive.

She says the athletic couple doesn’t really try to one-up each other all that much.

”Maybe in board games,” she says with a laugh.

Julie and Zach are currently the sporting world’s ”It” couple. Julie is a midfielder for the World Cup-winning U.S. national soccer team, while her husband Zach is a tight end for the Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles. The joke is that they both play football, just different kinds.

Just as Zach was in Canada for the 2015 World Cup final cheering on Julie, she’ll be rooting for him on Sunday in Minneapolis. In fact, she’s already there, acting as a correspondent for the U.S. team’s Twitter feed .

The couple was married last March after a romance that started when Julie, then Julie Johnston, was an emerging soccer star at Santa Clara and Zach was playing at Stanford.

Julie’s career took off in 2015, well before Zach reached the NFL’s biggest stage, when she was selected by national team coach Jill Ellis for the World Cup roster. At 23, she was the second-youngest player on the squad for soccer’s premier tournament.

”You train as if whenever you’re called upon you’re ready,” she said. ”I think that was a huge mentality that was important for me. I know I really wanted to make the team, but I knew that I had a long way to go. So I tried every day to take it day by day and really learn anything I could at practice, and do every extra thing that I thought I needed to do.”

Johnston played on a backline that included Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn and Ali Krieger. The defense was anchored by Hope Solo, who was spectacular in goal. The group went 540 minutes during the tournament without conceding a goal on the way to a 5-2 final victory over Japan.

With her trademark baby-blue headband, Johnston quickly proved she was one of the sport’s fastest-rising stars. Today, she’s introspective about her world championship.

”I could give you 1,000 moments that were special, but looking back it was the journey, and everything that I learned about myself and what I didn’t think I could do,” she said. ”I learned a lot, and it really pushed my love for the sport even more than I already loved it.”

She shifted to a defensive midfielder position with the national team last year and did well. At the Tournament of Nations she came in as a substitute and scored the winner of a 4-3 victory in the 89th minute.

She played at that position the rest of the season, scoring six goals, including two against New Zealand. In December she was selected the national team’s Player of the Year, earning more than half of all the votes.

But probably the happiest thing she did last year was marry Zach. The two tied the knot in March in California.

Zach, 27, is in his fifth season with the Eagles. He broke out this season with 824 receiving yards, behind only New England’s Rob Gronkowski (1,084) and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (1,038) among the ends. His eight touchdowns were double his previous career high Matt Kalil Jersey , and he had eight catches for 93 yards in the NFC championship game.

The two were apart when the Eagles clinched their spot in the Super Bowl with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Julie was in San Diego for a national team match against Denmark. She was among the players who scored in the 5-1 victory.

Afterward, when she was told Zach was going to the Super Bowl, she burst into tears .

”Zach knew I was there obviously in spirit and I was praying for him and I was excited for him and cheering him from miles away,” she said. ”It’s a part of our job and we sacrifice a lot, and time’s the biggest thing. But to find out that they are going to the Super Bowl was amazing, exciting, emotional. It’s really cool to see your loved one’s hard work pay off.”

That’s part of the mutual respect their marriage is built on.

”She understands how hard I worked and how hard this team worked to get to this point. We’re each other’s No. 1 fan. Our relationship wasn’t built on the athletic success. We truly love each other and that’s the most important thing,” Zach said.

To that end, Julie said it’s Zach’s turn in the spotlight.

”This is his time,” she said. ”I’m here. I’m a fan! I’m going to be in the stands, cheering with everyone else.”



When Saints rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith picked his jersey number, he had a choice between 10 or 18.

The number 10 held no personal significance to Smith previously, but he knew it meant something to fans in New Orleans.

Brandin Cooks, the Saints’ first-round choice in 2014, wore that number until he was traded to New England in 2017. So Smith, never shy about discussing his own high standards, went with that.

”It meant a lot, what he did on the field when he was here,” Smith said of Cooks, who had two 1,000-yard seasons in New Orleans and is now with the Los Angeles Rams.

”It just boosts the expectations of like, what I have to do. Because I know the guy who wore it before me, he was a great player. So, I want to be a great player.”

The 6-foot-2 Smith is one of two receivers who could grow into significant roles in New Orleans’ passing game. The other is Cameron Meredith, a free-agent acquisition who led Chicago in receiving two seasons ago before missing all of last season with a knee injury.

Smith unabashedly endorses the notion that he was one of the steals of last spring’s draft when he was selected in the third round – 91st overall – out of Central Florida.

Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson said the 6-3 Meredith has the ability to give the Saints some of what they lost when the franchise’s career receiving leader, Marques Colston, retired after the 2015 season.

”When you talk about red zone and third down, one thing you want to do is you want to have length” on the field, said Johnson, who also was Meredith’s position coach in Chicago two seasons ago. ”He has the skills to separate in small spaces. For big guys, that’s tough.”

Johnson said Meredith can play out wide, but is particularly adept at executing ”seam” routes down the middle of the field as a slot receiver Cheap Customized Philadelphia Eagles Jerseys , particularly against smaller defensive backs.

”There’s a lot of small DBs in the league, and you love to see him match up with small guys, especially in the slot,” Johnson said.

Last season, Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn were the most productive members of New Orleans’ receiving group; Thomas had 1,245 yards and five touchdown catches, while Ginn had 787 yards and four TDs receiving.

Both are back. But if Meredith returns to his form of 2016 – 888 yards, four TDs – and Smith develops quickly, quarterback Drew Brees could find it easier to punish defenses for shading coverage toward a particular side of the field, or a particular receiver.

Smith missed a number of offseason practices with a hamstring injury, but was able to take part in summer workouts Brees hosted in California.

Since camp opened, Smith periodically has been working with the first-team offense, and Brees has connected with him deep downfield already.

”He can run,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, but offered only measured praise beyond that.

”He’s making some good plays and then all of a sudden he’s having a few plays that he’s got to correct,” Payton said. ”His stance and start still need work, but (it’s) something he’s been focused on.”

Meredith had reconstructive knee surgery a little less than a year ago. He’d been easing his way back into on-field work during the offseason. Coaches are still monitoring his snap count during camp, but when he is on the field, he appears to run routes without limitations.

”I’m out here practicing and felt good, so that’s a good sign,” Meredith said, adding that the opportunity to work with Brees is ”amazing.”

”He’s such a leader,” Meredith said, specifying that he has picked up on elements of Brees’ preparation and work ethic that other players can adopt, regardless of the position they play. ”He’s very detailed about everything.”

Johnson calls Meredith ”smart beyond his years,” explaining that the fourth-year pro ”hasn’t played much, but he’s mature … and having Drew on his side is awesome.”

Even before Meredith got back on the field, he appeared to have made a good impression on Brees.

”I like talking to him. I like his attitude. I like what I’ve seen from his prior film. I like his size and his strength,” Brees said earlier this offseason. ”He fits the system well and I think we’re going to be able to do a lot of things with him.”




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