SALIDA — Zach Sudfeld stood on the football field at Modesto Christian High School, the same field on which he starred for three varsity seasons about 10 years ago, and watched current MC players whiz past him.
At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, Sudfeld has the size of an NFL tight end, which he is, but he seems more suited to life on a beach. The 25-year-old Santa Cruz native wears his long, blond hair tied up in the back and has the amiable, carefree manner of Jeff Spicoli.
Sudfeld, who is expected Wednesday at New York Jets training camp on the East Coast, and his twin brother, Matt, who played football at Brown University, were in Salida on Wednesday for the Crusader Olympics.
Modesto Christian players gathered in the school’s weight room and tested their strength in four basic lifts: power cleans, squats, deadlifts and bench presses. After that, the squad moved over to the stadium for an obstacle course competition. .
All under the watchful eye of the Sudfeld brothers.
Younger brother Nate, a 2012 graduate of MC and about to enter his junior season as quarterback at the University of Indiana, could not attend.
“Nate’s in Indiana, getting ready for the season,” said Zach Sudfeld, a 2007 graduate of MC who helped the Crusaders reach back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section title games in 2005 and 2006. “He’s the superstar of the family. They sell his jersey, with his name on it, back there.”
After coming on for a few relief appearances as a freshman, Nate Sudfeld threw for more than 2,500 yards as a sophomore, completing 60.2 percent of his passes, with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. And though Nate may be the star, he’s still just an amateur, not a pro like his brother.
Zach Sudfeld played collegiately at the University of Nevada, where he was a teammate of Colin Kaepernick (they share the same agent). He went undrafted in 2013, but signed with the New England Patriots, where he distinguished himself during camp and clicked with quarterback Tom Brady. However, he was released after Week 5 but was immediately picked up by the Jets.
“I’m so fortunate to be where I’m at right now,” said Zach Sudfeld. “I’m just thankful for all Coach (Mike) Parsons and the school has done for me.”
The elder Sudfelds played for Parsons before he left for Clovis West (Fresno) after winning the 2009 state title. When they learned Parsons had returned to MC, they were eager to come back and visit with their old coach and address the team.
“It’s nice to have a past player, who’s been through the same things as us, come back and help motivate us,” said fullback/linebacker Conner Dowd, who, for the record, benches 275, cleans 295, squats 425 and deadlifts 465. “It’s nice to able to relate to somebody who’s in the NFL. It shows what can be done if we work as a team and unite.”
The Sudfelds realize that spending a few hours with the Crusaders probably won’t alter the course of anybody’s life or make anybody a better football player. But they had a clear message for the team.
“We just wanted to tell the kids what this program means to us,” said Matt Sudfeld, a smaller, clean-cut version of his brother who looks, well, like an Ivy League graduate. He works for a humanitarian organization called Assist International, which was founded by their grandfather. “Our message to the team was to trust this program and to trust the coaching staff and to pour your heart into it, because we found that all we put into it really pays dividends on and off the field.
“We just wanted to come and relay that message.”