Following The Game Saturday, senior defensive tackle Josue Ortiz left New Haven with more than a 4-0 career record against Yale; he had a fiancé.
Surrounded by celebrating teammates, classmates, and alumni after Harvard’s 45-7 drubbing of Yale, Ortiz moved to the sideline to scope out the field, searching for his girlfriend of three years, sophomore Kayci Baldwin.
“A bunch of Callbacks [an a capella group] were chasing me as I was looking for Josue in the huge mass of football players and fans,” said Baldwin of her friends following her with iPhones recording. “I was thinking, ‘Why is everyone so excited to see Josue?’”
Baldwin finally found Ortiz on the sideline, and a circle of friends and teammates formed around the couple. She tapped him on the shoulder and asked why he wasn’t on the field.
He responded, “Because I’m proposing.”
Ortiz got down on one knee, in front of over 53,000 fans and a national television audience.
The couple met prior to Baldwin’s freshman year at a summer campus conference for all of the college students in the International Church of Christ. They became friends that summer, and their romance grew when she entered college.
“It’s interesting because when we met, she wasn’t even going to Harvard at the time. She emailed me saying she was applying, and I wished her luck,” Ortiz said. “We started going to church here together, and we became great friends ... then we fell in love.”
Ortiz had been thinking of proposing for a few months, and he contacted Baldwin’s mother to assist in the planning. He, her mother, and her grandmother went shopping for the ring—a yellow gold ring with a sapphire stone, a tradition for the women in Baldwin’s family. Her mom contacted one of Baldwin’s friends and fellow Callback, sophomore Rachel Gladstone, to prepare Baldwin as much as she could for the big surprise without spoiling it.
“I was hoping it would happen soon, but I didn’t expect him to do it [after the game] because he’s so focused and dedicated to his team, I thought he wouldn’t even been thinking about it until later after the season,” Baldwin said. “I was absolutely shocked.”
“My entire team knew, but she didn’t know at all. I told my team that I wasn’t going to go home with them after the game,” Ortiz said. “After the game, we went out to dinner together with our families.”
Both the families came up for the big game and day, and it was the first time their parents had met, despite talking several times previously.
The couple announced their engagement to Baldwin’s church this morning, and then traveled back to campus together to finish out the week and return to Baldwin’s for a Thanksgiving together.
As for setting a date, Ortiz and Baldwin are waiting to see what Ortiz will do next year.
“Right now, I’m thinking about the NFL for next year. We’ll know more about that and what our plans are then,” Ortiz said. “So, we are taking it slow.”
—Staff writer Emily Rutter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.