Not all former basketball players who turn to football are soft-handed tight ends.
The round ball was the first sports devotion for Chiefs offensive lineman Zach Sterup, who was part of three Nebraska high school state championship basketball teams.
Little wonder, given his height.
“I never really had a growth spurt,” Sterup said. “I’ve usually been the tallest person. I was 6-4 in the eighth grade.”
He’s added five inches according to the Chiefs’ roster, making him an unusually tall offensive tackle with its own set of advantages and challenges, which were on display Monday as Sterup ran with the second team at right tackle on the first day of pads.
Reach and length work for Sterup, giving him an opportunity to better control a block. But getting and staying low, that’s the work.
“It’s a different hemisphere, a different level up there,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who has coached his share of vertically blessed linemen in previous stops.
Reid’s tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles spanned the bulk of the careers of Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Both stood 6 feet 7 and were Pro Bowlers.
As a Missouri assistant coach, Reid coached Russ “The Bus” McCullough, a 6-10 lineman, who spent some of his post-football career as a professional wrestler.
So, Reid knows offensive lineman can shop at the big and tall store.
“Leverage becomes an issue, and you have to work with that,” Reid said. “And when you’re that tall, being able to bend.”
The Chiefs liked what they saw after Sterup was invited to rookie minicamp in May and they signed the former Nebraska Cornhusker.
Sterup was part of the Cornhuskers’ 2011 recruiting class that included Gardner Edgerton’s Bubba Starling, who went on to a baseball career in the Royals organization.
Dealing with injuries and a coaching change from Bo Pelini to Mike Riley, Sterup gained and lost starting jobs during his college career. He didn’t expect to be drafted.
“I had a pretty average college career, I wasn’t spectacular or anything,” he said.
His versatility was an attraction for the Chiefs. Sterup played tackle and guard in college. Also, there was his athleticism. The footwork and quickness developed in basketball paid off.
“Growing up, I thought I was going to play basketball in college, and if I pursued it I think I could have played at some mid-major schools,” Sterup said.
But he also was excelling at football, which also won multiple state titles for St. Cecilia in Hastings, and the football interest gained steamed.
“Football started taking off for me, and I decided to stick with it,” said Sterup, eventually shelving his summer travel team basketball schedule. “And being from Nebraska, and having them offer, that was a big thing.”
Sterup is on to the next big thing, trying to make an NFL roster.
“Wherever they need a guy, I’m willing to step in there and give them my best,” Sterup said. “Being a part of this organization is my only goal.”