A knee injury that knocked Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Jesse Ertz out of the Texas game and has kept him on the sidelines ever since will indeed end his season, head coach Bill Snyder told the media on Tuesday.
In all likelihood, that means Ertz’ football career is over. He already has his degree, and because he took a redshirt, he’s unlikely to get a medical redshirt for 2015 even if he applies for one. So let’s take a look at Jesse’s career in Manhattan.
Jesse Ertz arrived in Manhattan in 2013, after a high school performance that earned him the nod as the Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012, and given a redshirt. He led the scout team offense that season and earned K-State’s Red Raider Award, given to the top contributor on the scout team. Ertz followed that up with a quiet redshirt-freshman season in 2014 taking a few snaps in mop-up duty, gaining 46 rushing yards on 7 carries, without throwing the ball.
Then, as a sophomore, he appeared set to take the reins of the offense as the starting quarterback. However it was not meant to be, and on the first play of the first game of the season, he suffered a season-ending injury that foreboded the year to come for the Wildcats.
Ertz bounced back with an impressive junior year in 2016, leading the Wildcats to a 9-4 record and a Texas Bowl victory against A&M. His 1,012 rushing yards were the 15th best in K-State history and third best among K-State quarterbacks. And his 5.53 yards per carry ranked as the fifth-best season in K-State history. He also threw for 1,755 yards and nine touchdowns, and became just the third quarterback in K-State history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,500 yards in a single season, joining Collin Klein (2011) and Ell Roberson (2002).
The Texas Bowl may be the high water mark for his career. He completed 70 percent of his passes for 195 yards, including a prefect-strike 79-yard touchdown pass to Byron Pringle that stands as the 13th-longest pass in school history. On top of that, he ran for another 67 yards and two touchdowns. It all added up to an MVP performance in the bowl game.
He shot out of the gate in his senior season, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 attempts in the season opener against Central Arkansas. That performance ranks first in K-State history in passing efficiency, is tied for first in passing touchdowns, and is 23rd in passing yards. Another excellent performance against Charlotte was followed by passing struggles in a loss to Vanderbilt and a victory over Baylor, although he excelled on the ground in both games. He regained some of his passing mojo in an overtime loss to Texas, during which he suffered his final season-ending injury.
For his career, he ranks fairly high among quarterbacks despite only playing significant snaps for a season and half. He is third all-time among K-State quarterbacks (and 19th among all Wildcats) in rushing yards with 1,399, surpassing even Michael Bishop, and his 2,685 passing yards are good for 14th in school history. He also has been one of the school’s masters of the long ball, with the eighth, ninth, and 13th-longest passes (of 83, 82, and 79 yards). Jesse was also voted a team captain twice in his career, in 2016 and 2017.
Because of how injuries limited his career, it’s tempting to think about “what if” when discussing Ertz. But that does a disservice to the record he put up. He is one of only seven starting quarterbacks to win a bowl game at K-State (Jonathan Beasley is the only one with two bowl wins), and he has a career record of 6-1 against teams from the state of Texas — all of those games against major conference teams. He is one of the finest dual-threat quarterbacks in a system known for them. He had fantastic top-end speed that gave even defensive backs trouble chasing him down, and if they got there, they were often met by a wicked stiff-arm.
Now, the best way for fans to give Ertz the send-off he deserves is to show up in droves and cheer Saturday for Senior Day against Iowa State.