A Letter to Football Moms

Dear Football Moms,

In the world we live in, we have all experienced games from a seat in the front row of the bleachers, to a seat in the waiting room in the hospital. And as a mom of four very active and athletic sons, I have lived through both — the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Let’s face it — it isn’t so easy being us.

Lisa and Zach Ertz

In 2005, I unexpectedly found myself a single mom. I had no choice but to quickly figure out how to fly solo. That meant learning what made a house of four boys tick and how to be fluent in “boy” language. My biggest fear in the early days was that I would totally screw this up and it would lead to catastrophic repercussions (a little dramatic, but true). My mission had to be simple, my formula foolproof. Faith, family, school, food, friends and STAYING BUSY with productive after-school activities. While I wished for the myriad of “safe” clubs (debate and chess club sounded good), all four were drawn to athletics: football, baseball, and basketball. Not the safe route I would have wished for, but I also knew that the life lessons learned participating in sports would serve them well in life…not to mention expend as much energy as possible! From that point on, my life would be a blur of thousands of hours spent on bleachers, hosting pre-game dinners, post-game rituals, injury set-backs, heartbreaking losses, and exhilarating wins.

Supporting their dreams became (and remains in different ways now) my singular focus. My oldest (Zach, now 30) had always dreamed of playing college basketball until, at the advice and coaching of a high school mentor (close friend and San Francisco 49’ers great Brent Jones), he pivoted away from basketball and began training and focusing on playing tight end — with a goal of playing that position in college. “Our” dream came true when he was offered a full scholarship to play at Stanford University. He is now in his 9th season as a Tight End for the Philadelphia Eagles. I spend Sunday’s praying, wringing my hands, and watching the game through my trusted “finger goggles.” If you have ever heard a helmet to helmet hit up close you will know why. When that helmet is protecting your son, it better be the very best it absolutely can be.

Zach Ertz Stanford

My second son, Shane, loved football too. He played wide receiver, until the unimaginable happened in the first home game of his senior season. Shane suffered a concussion that left him motionless and unresponsive on the field for over five unbearable minutes. His dream vanished because of a head injury. While sitting stunned in the bleachers, it was then that I realized I needed to do something – anything!– to prevent the head injuries that had stolen my son’s dream of playing football. It was heartbreaking to have one son living his dream and running out of the tunnel on college football Saturdays, and the other son who dreamed to be out there too, but instead watching the games with me from the bleachers.

I know that I’m not the first person to recognize that safety in sports requires a comprehensive solution, especially in the game of football — but because of my experiences, head safety became my passion, my mission, and my dream. When I was introduced to the patented ProTech helmet cover, and the new leadership team at SAFR Sports – the company that took over ownership of ProTech, I was convinced that we had the recipe to make it happen. A team of mission-driven people who want more than profitability, we all want an affordable solution for safety through proven science. Their safety technology aligned perfectly with my personal mission: make the best and most affordable head protection available to every youth and high school athlete.

Yes, the violent hits in the NFL are real and terrifying, but so are those experienced by all players — at every level. And yes, Zach’s career has been full of blessings, we’ve made everlasting memories, and he is living his dream, but he is still my son, so my first prayer before every game is that he is spared injury. My post-game prayer is always about gratitude.

As a mom of four, each dream that comes true for them feels like it’s coming true for me—only better. When Zach helped bring the first Lombardi Trophy home to Philadelphia in Super Bowl 52, I am positive I felt that same joy he experienced. Shane, who wanted more than anything to be back on the field is now a business executive and loving it. Nic, who missed his entire freshman and sophomore years of high school due to a back injury (and subsequent surgeries) was able to able to rehab enough to make his High School Varsity Basketball Team and today he is grinding through his second year of law school at Temple University—most definitely his dream. And my youngest, Jackson, is now a D-1 scholarship baseball player at University of the Pacific. I can’t wait to be in the stands again for baseball games!

All my sons’ experiences are certainly not unique. When an entire town rallies around a high school football team under the Friday night lights, it remains one of the single most unifying parts of our country’s culture. We need those experiences for players, families, and their communities now more than ever. And we can demand that the safest equipment is worn – especially on their head. 

Dreams will always exist for our youth, but the focus on safety is the most critical reality. In short, it’s up to us to insist that ANY barriers that keep the safest equipment from being used are removed and that everyone has access to ProTech. How do we as moms define success? For me it is raising kids who are prepared to succeed and giving them space for their dreams to come true. Never in my own wildest dreams did I think that high school football would turn into a scholarship, into an NFL career, but here we are so I have to make this matter. In Zach’s case, watching his dreams of playing trumped the fears that I had. As important, it gives me the fuel I need to turn my own dreams of a safer game into reality for everyone. As moms, we protect our children from the moment they enter our world. I can’t do this alone! Please consider joining me in the proverbial bleachers as we work together to make football as safe as possible for decades to come!

With a sincere and grateful heart,

Lisa Ertz