The Ultimate Training Partners: Zach and Julie Ertz
Pro athletes Zach and Julie Ertz train together during the offseason in order to be stronger competitors and a stronger couple.
Jalen Ramsey. Zeke Elliott. Laremy Tunsil. What do all these football stars have in common? In addition to their insane skills and bright futures, they’re all Nike The Opening Alumni.
Nike has hosted the elite 7-on-7 competition for years at their incredible Beaverton, OR headquarters and if you want to know what the future of football looks like — you’d better pay attention. Only the best of the best high school recruits are even invited. They are the players who will dominate Saturdays and Sundays for years to come.
This year, Eastbay got a golden ticket and will be on-site for all the weekend’s action. From behind-the-scenes practices to the tournament itself, we’ll be there for it all — giving you unprecedented access.
Check back to this blog post all weekend for updates from our football writer, Jake Zipperer, who will be on the sidelines chronicling the whole experience. Also make sure to follow us on Snapchat and Instagram where we’ll peel back the curtain and post tons of live, exclusive content.
Friday, June 30
7:30 PM PST
To start one of the biggest football events of the year, you’ve got to go big — really big. Nike brought down the house at the Nike The Opening kickoff ceremony and got 166 of the top high school athletes more motivated and hyped than they’ve ever been before.
The event was so exclusive that media wasn’t allowed, but Nike gave Eastbay a VIP pass to break down all of the action and there was plenty of it. You want pro football guest stars? There were four of them. The freshest style and swag? Nike made special football gear just for this event. How about a speaker to pump the athletes up? They brought in Dr. Eric. Thomas. Yeah… That’ll work.
This is the 7th year of Nike The Opening and the brand wanted to pay homage to their famous alumni by unveiling their first-ever Opening Hall Of Fame class. They enshrined an offensive and defensive player and this year’s honorees were San Francisco’s DeForest Buckner and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. Pretty good company, huh? Both pros were brought out to speak to this year’s class and detail how The Opening made a huge impact on their football careers.
Later on, the six teams got to finally see what their uniforms looked like at a jersey unveiling. Each of the six teams (Vapor Speed, Untouchable, Savage Pro, Mach Speed, Lunar Beast, and Alpha Menace) had one of their players come out to rep their new colors and style. The big surprise came at the end of the unveil, when Los Angeles’ Cooper Kupp and Tennessee’s Adoree’ Jackson showed up to model the jersey’s that the two championship teams will rock.
But let’s get to the real show stopper of the event: Dr. Eric Thomas’ amazing speech. The pastor and author gave an incredible speech about what it takes to make it to the top. He spoke directly to the players, recounting his own personal experiences and letting them know the secret to success: unflinching dedication. I could try to describe how inspiring and motivational his speech was, but let’s be honest — I could never reach his level. Here’s what I can say: he got these guys pumped and ready to take their game to the next level.
This weekend is going to be amazing. Let’s do this.
Saturday, July 1
4:00 PM PST
It’s hard to put into words just how special the Nike Beaverton World Headquarters is. With every step you take and door you open, you are surrounded by piece after piece of sports history.
With its massive size and laid-back, friendly atmosphere, Nike HQ resembles a college campus as much as it does a place of business. Each building is named after a sports legend, like Tiger Woods, Mia Hamm, and Michael Jordan. But it’s a lot more than just a name on a plaque: Every building truly embodies the athlete. Each room is given a name that has special meaning to the athlete, and the lobbies are full of unique artwork alongside gear that the player rocked while making history.
As you walk from building to building, iconic athletes are always looking on, their massive banners hanging proudly along the pathways. Every pillar is adorned with a bronze bust of a different legendary figure who helped shape the modern sports world. It really is sports heaven.
But the Nike Headquarters goes beyond paying homage to sports history. It’s about living the sports lifestyle. From the bright orange bikes that can be found throughout campus to the multiple first-class fitness centers, there are endless opportunities to stay active. Volleyball courts, football fields, running trails… You name it, Nike HQ has it.
The thing that stuck out the most was the freedom and fun that seemed to be around every corner. At one point during our tour, we found a souped-up golf cart parked outside a building. It was painted bright red with a big LCD screen and speaker system built in. It turned out that it was custom-made for Odell Beckham during his last visit, designed around his untouchable skills and swag.
Little things like that are what make the Nike HQ so amazing. Sport isn’t just a business here — it’s a way of life.
Saturday, July 1
11:00 PM PST
The Training Camp Showcase just ended and it was the perfect way to kick things up a notch at The Opening.
The showcase started off with pretty standard position drills. Receivers got their route running in while lineman worked on their technique. But after 15 minutes or so, it came time to ratchet up the intensity.
During the second set of drills, the offense started to battle the defense. The offensive and defensive lineman went toe-to-toe in intense trench battles. The running backs and linebackers flashed their skills in a Make ‘Em Miss competition. And the receivers squared off against the defensive backs in a one-on-one route-running matchup.
Before long, it was time for the event that everyone was waiting for: The Savage Pit. This was where legends would be made and records would be broken.
The Pit was broken into five different major events — the Fastest Man, the QB Long Toss, the Powerball Toss, the Tug-of-War, and Make ‘Em Miss — and all of them were perfect showcases of these athletes’ incredible skills.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart of Nike The Opening’s Team Mach Speed tore his way to the Fastest Man title with a blazing 4.32 40-yard dash time in the first heat and a 4.47 on the final. Thousands of fans, coaches, and scouts sat in attendance, and he made everyone take notice.
The QB Long Toss was next on the list and gave the signal callers from all six The Opening teams a chance to flash their arm strength. Matthew Corral from Team Alpha Menace hoisted the trophy with a winning throw of 77 yards.
Nike gave the big men a showcase for their abilities with the Powerball Toss competition. A lineman from each team kneeled down and threw a medicine ball as far as he could. Xavier Thomas, a D-lineman for Team Savage Pro, won with a throw of 47 feet.
The core of this event is the team aspect and that held true in the fourth Savage Pit challenge: the Tug-of-War. Four players from each team battled against another squad in an exhibit of sheer force and determiniation. After multiple rounds, Team Vapor Speed walked away victorious.
The final challenge was the biggest and most popular: Make ‘Em Miss. It’s a simple and captivating drill. A running back lines up on one side and a defensive back lines up on the other, the whistle blows, and players try to stop one another from making it halfway to the starting point. These guys made moves, broke ankles, and dropped more than a few spectators’ jaws on the way to writing their own legends. In the end, Team Lunar Beast won thanks to clutch performances by running back James Cook and defensive back Patrick Surtain II.
So after all that great action, the games finally kick off with pool play tomorrow. If today was any indication, it’s sure to keep us all on the edge of our seats.
Sunday, July 2
5:00 PM PST
If the Training Camp Showcase and Savage Pit took the intensity up to another level yesterday, today’s events launched everything to a new stratosphere.
Lineman drills and 7-on-7 pool play kicked off simultaneously at 10 a.m. and it was heated from the jump. The big guys went back to the Savage Pit where they faced off in ferocious one-on-one pass-rushing drills all while Miami superstar Ndamukong Suh looked on.
Suh wasn’t the only big name on campus — football stars have been everywhere you look throughout all of the weekend’s action. We got a chance to chat with two of the pros, Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook and Tennessee’s John Ross about the advice they’re giving the high schoolers.
Cook is actually an alum of The Opening and enjoyed transitioning from student to teacher. “The first thing I thought of when I arrived was, ‘Man, I was just here a few years ago — that’s crazy,’” he said. “But it’s been really great going here and telling these guys that if you’ve got that goal in your mind, you have to set your mind to it and achieve it.”
Ross didn’t get the chance to attend The Opening when he was in high school, but “Football’s Fastest Player” had plenty of sage advice. “Being here is such an amazing experience, but you never know what will happen next in your career,” he explained. “You’ve got to prepare yourself and work hard because your life could change in an instant.”
The big surprise came at around 2 p.m. when the space around the Savage Pit cleared and the teams balling out in pool play were told to take a break. Everyone knew something (or someone) big was coming. All six teams were called to the Pit to start a dance battle, flashing their swag and moves. Before long, the crowd started to murmur and turn the other direction. A decked out red golf cart emerged onto the field with none other than OBJ himself making a surprise appearance.
He hopped out of the cart, hyped up the athletes, and showed his own famous dance moves. The crowd went nuts. Beckham stayed for a couple hours to take in the remaining pool play games and help coach the players.
It was another incredible day at Nike Headquarters and we’ve got even more on the docket for the final day tomorrow, with the 7-on-7 tournament in the morning and the championship game in the evening. Check back here to see how it all unfolds.
Monday, July 3
8:30 PM PST
Today was closing day at The Opening and it was the perfect ending to an amazing weekend of football.
The 7-on-7 tournament got rolling around 9:30 a.m. and didn’t let up until 3 p.m., with all six teams battling head-to-head and leaving it all on the field. Every team had their fair share of moments and incredible plays, but there were two teams that stood out the most: Team Mach Speed and Team Alpha Speed. By the end of the tourney, they were the last two standing and set the stage for an epic title match at 4 p.m.
When the two top teams stepped onto the field, a bigger crowd had gathered. They were eager to see which squad would etch their names into the record books. Both teams wore special championship-game jerseys and gear that was made just for the title bout. Seattle superstar Richard Sherman was even on hand for the coin toss.
Vapor Speed started strong, scoring on their first two drives and jumping out to a 12-0 lead. By the end of the first half, the score was already 25-7. Alpha Speed tried to stage a comeback in the second half but Vapor Speed held strong behind the powerful arm of QB Justin Fields and a defense that lived for the big play. They proved their dominance, winning 31-15.
While the 7-on-7 tournament was taking place throughout the day, action just as intense was taking place in the Savage Pit. Nike gave awards to the biggest warriors there and the top 5 OLs were Vapor Speed’s Jackson Carman, Vapor Speed’s Juston Dedich, Savage Pro’s Curtis Dunlap Jr., Untouchable’s Brey Walker, and Alpha Menace’s Jamaree Salyer, who was named the position’s MVP.
The DL top 5 were Vapor Speed’s Brenton Cox, Vapor Speed’s Taron Vincent, Savage Pro’s Nesta Silvera, Lunar Beast’s Jayson Ademilola, and Savage Pro’s Xavier Thomas. Thomas dominated all weekend and was the obvious MVP.
To put a cap on the incredible event, Nike gathered all the players into the meeting room where it all began during the Opening Ceremony. They handed out awards like Fastest Man to the 40-yard-dash king, DB Issaac Taylor-Stuart from Mach Speed and Make ‘Em Miss Champion to DB Patrick Surtain II from Lunar Beast.
When it came time to present the big individual award, The Opening MVP, there was no doubt who it was going to. QB Justin Fields from Mach Speed had been dealing perfect passes all weekend and clearly earned the distinction.
The tourney champs, Team Mach Speed, were also the overall champs so the entire team got called up to the stage to celebrate together and close the ceremony down.
This event had everything you could ever want in a major football event — surprise superstar appearances, the hottest gear and clothing around, and an incredible location. But at the core of every moment was what really mattered most: the players themselves. These high school athletes put on a show from the first practice until the last whistle and made it crystal clear that the future of football is brighter now than it has ever been.
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