A standout for the Huskers for four years, a starter for over a hundred games during his 12-year career in the NFL. A former All-State performer at Grand Island Central Catholic.
That's where Carl Tesmer remembers him best. He was a coach of his, after all. During the 34 years Tesmer has been a head coach, his last 19 at Hastings St. Cecelia, that's where his mind wanders to when trying to answer the inevitable question: "Have you coached anyone like Zach Sterup before?"
Now Parrella at his tallest was 6-4. And at his heaviest during his playing days, he was around 300 lbs.
Sterup is 6-9 and around 270. Physically, they are very different. But Tesmer said that they compare just fine where it counts. "He just competes as hard as he can on every play, just like John used to. And both are so physically gifted, you can put them about anywhere you want to on the field," he said. "But Zach, I mean you just look at him now, and that's just scratching the surface of where this young man could be physically, in just a couple of years. My gosh, his future is just outstanding."
|Sterup draws lofty comparisons, but
potential could be equal to expectations
Playing Sterup both ways, Tesmer has seen what this now future Husker has done for both his offensive and defensive lines. On the offensive side Tesmer will tell you that you won't move this kid if he doesn't want you to, and good luck getting around him. On defense, even at his height, Tesmer said Sterup plays with great pad level, leverage and oh by the way, just try throwing over him if he gets anywhere close to the pocket.
Tesmer said with a laugh, "Yeah, he can change a quarterback's mind real fast just by being there. You aren't going to throw over him. That's for sure."
While Tesmer has some reference from the past to compare, from just pure potential, he doesn't have any comparison when it comes to the kind of recruiting attention he's seen Sterup get this year. It wasn't anything he had seen in close to half a century in the business. But his experiences have been nothing but positive. "I have met so many good people during all of this. I mean, I am just thankful for the chance to meet all these great coaches from players like Stanford, Notre Dame and, of course, Nebraska," he said. "What a treat it's been, and I think Zach and his parents have been just unbelievable in being able to take it all in and handle it so well."
The timing of the decision was obviously Sterup's to make. But Tesmer said that he couldn't imagine that it could have come at a better time. Sterup is a two-way star, after all – a definite favorite for first-team All-State honors in both basketball and football this year. The fact that Sterup's decision to play for Nebraska comes at this time – to Tesmer it's perfect. "Well, there's nothing going on. He's doing a lot of lifting, but can you imagine if he would have had to deal with this kind of stuff during basketball season or during football," he said. "I honestly think that he did this at the best possible time for him.
"You could tell that he felt that this was something he wanted to do, so that he could have that behind him and be able to focus on the things most important to him. And let me tell you something, when that young man focuses in on something it's going to get done."
People are already trying to project Sterup, not just in regard to his collegiate career, but his physical upside when you look a bit on down the road. Tesmer wouldn't deny that's a possibility, but as a veteran of multiple decades, he knows the value of taking things as they are, not how you think they should be. With that said, however, for Nebraska and for himself Tesmer sees silver lining all around. "The thing is, I know he works. There are a lot of kids who might have all the gifts, but they don't put in the work," he said. "That's a credit to Zach and his parents, who have instilled that in him about how important it is to work as hard as you can, because you realize that's the only way to get where you want to be.
"I know the young man has gifts. Gosh, anyone can see that. But he also puts in the work. That's what I think makes him have very special potential down the road."