To an outsider, Josue Ortiz became one of the most important defensive players in Ivy League football in 2010, and one of the best.
But his teammates have a simpler understanding of the senior defensive tackle.
“To be honest, he’s just a man-beast in terms of his physical strength,” said senior wide receiver Marco Iannuzzi.
Ortiz led the Ivy League with 7.5 sacks last season. No other player on the Harvard squad had more than 2.5, and Ortiz was also third on the team in tackles with 54.
With every passing season, the defensive tackle has assumed a bigger role for the Crimson. After sitting out what would have been his rookie season with an injury, he appeared in just three games during his sophomore year.
It was only during his junior year that Ortiz—who is eligible for one more season and will play for Harvard next year—began to assume his present role. But even then, he registered only two sacks and did not start at all in 2009.
Despite a solid performance last season, Ortiz only really came into his own in 2010.
“He just became a dominant player,” Crimson coach Tim Murphy said. “He came in really raw and rough. He’s one of those kids that has improved so dramatically from year to year to the point where this year, he was the best defensive player in the league.”
After his best season to date—one in which he developed into a game-changing player—Ortiz was named to the All-Ivy first team, All-New England FCS team, and AP All-American third team.
Throughout the season, Ortiz was consistently a threat. But it was in two of the team’s biggest games in 2010—the night game against Holy Cross and The Game against Yale—that he put together some of his best performances of the year.
Against the Bulldogs, he notched 11 tackles, a forced fumble, and a blocked punt on the way to Harvard’s fourth consecutive victory over Yale.
“I can specifically remember, leading up to Yale weeks, [Ortiz had] the exact same mental preparation and the exact same physical preparation as for any other week of the season,” Iannuzzi said. “He’s not psyching himself out.”
Ortiz’s breakout performance in 2010 was a major step up from 2009, both in terms of playing time and the numbers he put together for the Crimson. But according to Murphy, he has positioned himself to improve as he heads into his final year for Harvard.
“I think Josue, far and away, is going to be our best football player,” he said. “But [if] he keeps improving, I think he has a good chance to be the best player in the league at any position.”
—Staff writer E. Benjamin Samuels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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