By John Philip Wyllie
Of the more than 100 players on the San Diego State Aztec football roster, only 20 are local products. Of those, just a few have Hispanic heritage. Former Horizon standout and current Aztec wide receiver Robert Ortiz is one of them.
Ortiz, a red shirt freshman, hauled in three receptions in Saturday’s loss to 17th ranked Colorado. While this year will see him overshadowed by seniors J.R. Tolver and Kassim Osgood, Ortiz, a walk-on, is off to a promising start.
“I was a little bit excited,” (making those three catches). “My father told me to act like a senior and not a freshman, so that is what I tried to do.” He admits that he was a little bit intimidated before the opening kickoff, but added, “after you get through the first play, it’s just football.”
“Coming up in high school, I was taught to be patient and to wait my turn. I was also taught to work hard,” Ortiz said following Tuesday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s home opener at the “Q”. “Coming here has not been much different, but everybody is bigger, they weigh a lot more and there is a lot more competition.”
Working behind Tolver and Osgood, both of whom will likely be NFL draftpicks next spring, has its advantages and disadvantages. Defenses are forced to pay attention to this deadly duo, so that makes getting open easier for receivers such as Ortiz. On the other hand, having this talented pair of wide-outs at his disposal, new Aztec coach Tom Craft is unlikely to award Ortiz much playing time. He has to make the most of the few opportunities he receives. Last Saturday he did. Ortiz has no complaints playing second fiddle to Tolver and Osgood.
“I get to look at them and see how they deal with certain things and run routes, so I get to learn from them,” he said. “They teach me and tell me what I am doing wrong. They also give me a lot of encouragement. Hopefully, (someday) I’ll be able to add the same spark that they do whenever they play.”
As a first-year player, Ortiz has not yet had the opportunity to work within the Hispanic community in an effort to get them behind what appears to be a rapidly improving team. “Hopefully, by next year people will know who I am,” Ortiz said. Once they do, he plans to build on what he is already doing on a small scale.
“I have a lot of family and friends that are now hopping on the Aztec bandwagon. Little by little I’m getting out there to reach out and talk to people and younger guys (who might want to follow in Ortiz’s footsteps).”
One of the things Ortiz enjoys most about playing at SDSU is the atmosphere. “Whether you are Black, White or Hispanic, on this team we are all the same. We are all one, like a family.”