ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Undrafted free agent rookies need to stand out to get noticed, and Zach Sterup definitely stands out.
The offensive lineman from Nebraska is listed at 6-foot-9, 318 pounds. He’s hard to miss on the field, but he’s hoping coaches notice his play entering training camp more than his size.
“I feel pretty good going in to it,” Sterup said Thursday after practice. “I just got to keep working, getting better everyday. That’s my goal, and hopefully I can help this team.”
Sterup offers versatility, an attribute the Chiefs value. While he spent most of his college career at right tackle, he move to right guard at the end of his senior season.
The Huskers running game thrived following the move, capped by the team’s 326 yards rushing versus UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl.
“I haven’t played much guard with the Chiefs yet, but I’ve let (offensive line) coach (Andy) Heck know that if they needed me to step in there and take some reps I’m able to do that to try it out,” Sterup said. “Playing left and right, just trying to be as versatile as I can and make a spot.”
Sterup says Heck wants him to be a swing tackle, playing both left and right positions equally well.
“I came in a little bit better at right,” Sterup said. “I’ve never played left before, so I’m working more at left right now just trying to improve that.”
Fellow rookie offensive lineman Parker Ehinger, who is listed 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, says Sterup makes even him look short. He has been more impressed with his teammate so far in practice.
“He’s smart, plays with a lot of aggression, so that’s good,” Ehinger said. “He gets after people.”
Sterup grew up in Hastings, Neb., with a brother who was a big Denver Broncos fan. That made Sterup a Chiefs fan.
“Every time they played the Chiefs I was pulling for the Chiefs obviously,” he explained.
Among Sterup’s childhood friends was Nebraska punter Sam Foltz. Last Saturday, Foltz was killed in a car wreck along with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler while the two were returning from a kicking camp in Wisconsin.
Foltz and Sterup grew up 15 miles apart in central Nebraska, and started playing together on the same basketball team in the fourth grade. They later played college football together for the Huskers.
“He was just the best teammate,” Sterup said. “He always was an optimist, always on the sideline cheering going, ‘Hey we got this, we got this. Just keep your head up, we’ll get it done.’ If you needed him for anything he was there. He was great to talk to, and a first class guy.”
On Sunday, Sterup attended a candlelight vigil for Foltz. On Tuesday, he reported to Chiefs training camp.
Sterup last saw Foltz on Friday, one day before the accident. He said his friend was thrilled for his current opportunity with the Chiefs.
“He was,” Sterup said. “I talked to him back when I was in Lincoln. He was really just a great guy. He would have been happy for me.”
Matt Derrick is the associate editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.