On March 26, 2017, U.S. WNT defender Julie Johnston hit a big milestone in her life as she married her college sweetheart and professional football player, Zach Ertz, in front of friends and family in Santa Barbara, California.
“It was the most amazing day ever,” she said. “I just love flowers and our tent had so many flowers. The whole day was perfect.”
While marriage itself may bring many changes in a person’s life, for a well-known professional athlete like Julie Johnston, one adjustment had some larger implications: changing her last name.
She knew long before she said “I do” that she would have a new last name on the back of her jersey.
“To me, it’s kind of a two become one kind of story,” Ertz said. “And Zach and I probably have a little bit of a different connection within the sports world since he’s an athlete too and that’s very cool.”
Julie and Zach Ertz met while she was attending college at Santa Clara and he was at Stanford.
Ertz officially debuted her new last name on the back of her jersey for her NWSL team, the Chicago Red Stars, on April 15, 2017. But because she missed the U.S. WNT’s last set of friendlies in Texas, due to her wedding and honeymoon, she has yet to debut it for the National Team.
“The first time I saw it I was super excited,” Ertz said about having her new name for the first time on the back of her jersey. “I thought I might be a bit sad, but it was really cool to see it for the first time with my NWSL team. It might be a little more special when it’s on the back of the National Team jersey.”
For Ertz, who won the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 Women’s World Cup with Johnston on her back, the new name on the jersey represents a special chapter that she’s ready to kick off.
“The one thing I’ve always learned is that everything is always a constant new journey,” she said. “Whether there’s a new cycle or a new year or a new goal. I’m kind of defined by always trying to push towards something different or push myself further. It’s cool to have a new chapter in my life with a new last name as well.”
An official new legal last name, a new jersey and new social media handles. But not all has changed for Julie Ertz. She’ll still always be JJ.
“JJ is a nickname I’ve had forever,” she said. “So, it stays.”