More often than not, kickers and punters are considered the “forgotten men” of a football team. They are often viewed as having one, simple job; to kick the ball. Whether it’s due to a dearth of knowledge or a lack of understanding, most people do not realize that, just like every other position, kickers and punters must put in endless hours of hard work to hone their craft. The very fact that they do is exactly why punts, field goals and kick-offs seem so routine to most fans. Similarly, this dedication to consistent improvement is what makes players like South Jersey’s Zach Sterr such a valuable asset to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
“Rutgers is my home-state school. It’s a program on the rise that I really believe in, and I connected very well with [head] coach Chris Ash and their director of player personnel, Toby Neinas.” Sterr told Armchair. “They want the best for me, and I feel like they can help me ascend to the next level, maybe even pro. There is also the added benefit that the school is not far away from my home, literally a small drive away. I would love to have my family come see me whenever they wanted and attend every home game.”
The 6-2, 225-pound kicker has evolved to become one of the top kicking prospects in the country. Funny enough, his decision to play the position was not exactly by choice.
“When I started playing football in the fourth grade, I played kicker because I was the only kid that could kick the ball through the uprights,” Sterr said.
“I was into other sports, too, mainly soccer. Around sixth grade, I decided to step away from football for a bit and focused more on soccer, but by the time I got to seventh grade I lost interest in soccer, so I switched back to football with a major focus on kicking. When I got to high school, one of my teammate’s dad introduced me to my kicking coach, Jim Cooper. It took some time, but when I started taking lessons with him, he helped me push my game up to a whole new level of play.”
That “ new level of play” helped Sterr catch the attention of special teams guru Chris Sailer, who serves as a kicking-talent evaluator for the Scarlet Knights.
“My [high school] football coach used to be a recruiting coordinator for Rutgers, and he told me that Sailer was already taking an interest in me,” Sterr told Armchair. “So, I decided to expand my learning experience by going to a couple of those kicking competitions.”
Sterr came in as a finalist for the 2017 Vegas XXIX Field Goal Competition and won both the 2016 FBU Orlando Kickoff competition and the 2017 NJ Spring Camp Kickoff contest.
“I felt like I was a pretty good kicker for a kid from New Jersey, and I wanted to test myself against other up-and-coming kickers. They evaluate you very strictly down there, and they’re very quick to call you out,” said Sterr.
“The competition helped me thrive and evolve as a player, as well as help me make a few connections with some of the other rising kickers that were there.”
Competition is nothing new for Sterr. Growing up, Sterr was always pushed to compete with his older brother, especially in sports.
“My older brother has been a role model to me since I was a kid. He was actually one of the main reasons I got into football, into sports in general,” Sterr said. “He doesn’t really care about sports as much as he used to, but he still pushes me to be more competitive and driven than anyone else. Every sport that he’s played, I played alongside him, except for baseball. He also used to beat me up a bit as a kid to help toughen me up, but hey, that’s just how brothers are, right?”
Toughness is certainly an aspect that shines in Sterr’s game, especially in the face of adversity. Right before halftime against a rival school, he was able to drill a 43-yard field goal with more than enough room to spare. But what is Sterr’s actual range?
“I can see myself making a 50 plus yard field goal if I had to,” he told Armchair. “During training, I’ve tested myself to see how far I can kick the ball. My record right now is 67-yards, but that’s like maybe one in five kicks that I can pull it off. I usually don’t try for those because it messes up my mechanics and just throws off my motions.”
Starr’s focus on maintaining his mechanics while testing his own boundaries is a prime example of just how passionate he is about being the best at everything, even outside of football. Sports, in general, have been a major influence on Sterr’s life, to the point where it has made him want to pursue a career in sports journalism in the event he ever hangs up his cleats for good.
“One of the reasons I chose Rutgers was because they have a pretty good media program that I can learn from,” Sterr said. “I’d love to be some type of sports reporter or analyst, getting the opportunity to talk about sports in any medium. Sports have always been a constant passion in my life, and I would love to make a career out of that passion.”
Still, football is not all that defines him. Sterr describes himself as your typical high school senior; he works a summer job at a golf course, likes to hang out with his friends by a beach bonfire, and he enjoys going to the movies on a weekend.
But perhaps his favorite thing to do outside of football is travel. Sterr takes any opportunity he can to expose himself to new cultures and customs.
“This past summer, I went to Europe with a bunch of my friends for a school trip. We went to London, Paris, Rome and Florence,” said Sterr. “Rome was definitely my favorite city. Just going to see the Colosseum and the ancient Roman ruins was such an amazing experience, along with the warm weather and delicious food that Italy had to offer.”
Sterr knows that nothing comes free in life. He has worked painstakingly hard to achieve everything to this point. From competing day in and out with his older brother, to pushing his boundaries on the football field and even expanding his worldview; it is more than fair to say that Zach Sterr is a talented, respectable young man with a bright future ahead of him. Scarlet Knights fans should be excited for the impact he will have on Rutgers both on and off the field.