For most programs, back-to-back second-place finishes might be good enough. Most squads would be thrilled by a two-year stretch in which it won seventy percent of its games.
But not Harvard.
Toward the end of spring practices in 2009, Harvard football coach Tim Murphy called then-sophomore Josue Ortiz into his office, as he does with every player on the roster. The two were set to discuss Ortiz’s thoughts on the team and perform standard player evaluations as the Crimson geared up for its summer practices and fall season.
But the defensive tackle wasn’t prepared for what was coming.
Playing quarterback requires a lot more than just a cannon arm and an imposing stature.
It requires the leadership to orchestrate a fourth-quarter comeback on the road in your team’s biggest game of the year. Or the toughness to fight back from an injury and return before anyone expected. Or the perseverance to work to get better after an up-and-down season.
When senior Josue Ortiz first donned a Crimson jersey, he seemed destined for a middling career in Harvard football.
“He was just so raw,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “Yeah, he was a good-looking kid, although pretty lean. But he looked stiff, and he just didn’t know how to react to blocking schemes. He was very unsophisticated in a football sense.”
By the third game of the 2010 season, Harvard was down to its third-string quarterback. The Crimson’s prospects looked bleak.
But even with question marks surrounding the team’s most important position, Harvard managed to stay relevant, finishing 5-2 in conference play. And much of this success can be attributed to a potent ground attack that earned nearly 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.