Jesse Ertz leads Kansas State in four statistical categories.
The junior quarterback has attempted more rushes and passes than any player on the roster, which has allowed him to amass a team-high 2,176 yards of total offense. He has also spent more time in the training room than any other Wildcat.
Ice packs cover his body after every game.
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“To see all the stuff he goes through just to be out there, you have to commend him,” K-State senior defensive end Jordan Willis said. “He is going to play hurt, he is going to play a certain way, it’s just the way it is and he is going to deal with it.”
Cuts, bruises and sore muscles have been constant issues for Ertz this season. He has avoided the major injuries that have cut previous seasons short, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last year, but minor injuries are beginning to add up.
Ertz has been forced to leave three games this season for multiple physical issues, ranging from leg cramps to shoulder injuries. He hasn’t missed a start, but it’s more obvious than ever he is playing through pain. Last week, he asked out after the first play of the third quarter and watched backups Joe Hubener and Alex Delton finish off a 34-19 victory against Kansas.
In football speak, he is banged up.
“I am not 100 percent,” Ertz admitted last week.
Ertz has spent so much time with K-State’s training staff receiving injury treatment after games that he hasn’t had time to attend a postgame media session since Oct. 29 when K-State beat Iowa State 31-26.
Still, he has found a way to effectively guide K-State’s offense in all three games since, rushing for 298 yards and three touchdowns on 59 attempts.
“I feel like, with all I have to go through to play each week, I have earned a lot of respect from my teammates,” Ertz said. “I am just trying to win, so I don’t necessarily care about anything else.”
His gritty play is beginning to remind some of former quarterbacks Collin Klein and Jake Waters, who were often too injured to practice but always healthy enough to help K-State win games.
Klein famously played with bloody arms in several games. Waters delayed shoulder surgery to finish his senior season.
“He is like Collin and like Jake,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “It was a little more evident with Collin and Jake, but Jesse is a tough young guy and it might not look like he demonstrates that, but he truly is.
“I don’t think there is a significant difference in the way they have approached it. He is a competitive young guy and he does what he has to do.”
Snyder said it wasn’t easy for Ertz to watch the second half of the Kansas game.
“We don’t want him to get injured to the point that he can’t play,” Snyder said. “That would be inappropriate for us. The other two (quarterbacks) were healthy and it made sense to do that.”
Ertz will return to the field in K-State’s final regular season game against TCU in his usual starting role, Snyder said Tuesday.
The Wildcats hope that a reduced workload against the Jayhawks will help Ertz feel healthier, or at least less sore, during practice this week. Regardless, he will be ready to make another start this weekend.
“He has been through this before,” Willis said. “He went through injuries in high school and then again last year. He has gained a lot of knowledge and knows how to handle this situation.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett