In 2011, Josue Ortiz won the Defensive Player of the Year award, led the Ivies in sacks, and guided Harvard football to an undefeated conference season and an Ivy title.
None of those is his most memorable accomplishment of the season. Minutes after a 45-7 win over Yale in The Game marked the end of his Harvard career, Ortiz got down on one knee and proposed to sophomore Kayci Baldwin, his long-time girlfriend, in front of 50,000 fans and a national television audience.
In a year during which Ortiz was a one-man highlight reel, his proposal at the Yale Bowl, one of the lasting memories from the season, capped off a dominant campaign on the defensive line.
Ortiz led the Ancient Eight with 10 sacks—two more than Cornell’s Zack Imhoff, the runner-up in that category—despite the fact he was often double-teamed by the opposing offensive lines.
But the more telling statistic is the performance of the Crimson’s defensive line as a whole. Harvard limited its opponents to 89.7 rushing yards per game during 2011, almost 30 yards fewer than the next-best team in the league.
Throughout the season, Murphy talked about the importance of the defense—and, in particular, the defensive line—in Harvard’s success on both ends of the ball during 2011. The Crimson had its highest scoring season in the modern era, beating every league opponent it faced by no fewer than 10 points.
Ortiz and the rest of the defensive linemen played a major role in the team’s offensive prowess, allowing the offense to start its possessions in optimal field position. Harvard held its opponents to single digits four times and limited its competition to the fewest points per game in the league.
After one of Harvard’s most successful seasons in recent years, Ortiz graduated in December having earned one ring and given away another. The star lineman went undrafted in last month’s NFL draft and, despite his professional aspirations, has not signed a contract as of the time this issue went to print.
But Ortiz’s 2011 season, for his success on and off the field, remains one of Harvard’s most memorable.
“He was just important to our team, to our defense, because he was the one guy that could do some things that you just can’t coach,” Murphy says.
—Staff writer E. Benjamin Samuels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.