From a social standpoint, it’s easy to get lost in a crowd.
From a football standpoint, it’s ideal to get lost in a crowd.
When Colleyville Heritage running back Mario Ortiz has the ball in his hands, all the 5-6 senior can see is the mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage, so he gets lower and then sneaks through the hole. Before you know it, he has eluded the pack.
“I’m really 5-5 and three quarters, but on a good day I’m 5-6,” Ortiz said. “I wouldn’t know anything about being a tall runner. All I’m trying to do is move toward the open grass and then get to it.”
For years, Colleyville Heritage’s program has struggled to produce any kind of consistent running game. Consider 2016 the season when this was solved. Ortiz has rushed for an apparent school-record 1,483 yards and 19 scores.
Ortiz has proven to be larger than life through this historic postseason run. He has averaged 147 yards through the first three playoff games including 243 in Saturday’s 43-34 Class 5A Division I Region I semifinal victory over Lubbock Coronado.
Colleyville Heritage (10-3) plays in its second-ever state quarterfinal game against Denton Ryan (13-0) at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Panthers have never played beyond this round.
“He’s a leader for our team and that was clear in spring ball,” head coach Joe Willis said. “That’s why I made him a team captain. He’s a team leader and does things the right way. He’s one of the toughest kids on the team.”
Ortiz’s lore is matched by what he does off the field because he is the 2016-2017 senior class president. There’s also the story of quarterback Cam Roane talking to one of the game officials toward the end of one of the postseason games and mentioning that Ortiz was the “heart and soul of our team.”
Should you want to know more about his character, go back to the season opener against Aledo. In the closing seconds of a 41-36 loss, Roane threw an interception that could have been returned for a touchdown. While the touchdown would have been meaningless, Ortiz came from the other side of the field to make the play and prevent the score.
Humbled by it all to the point of embarrassment, Ortiz didn’t have any personal goals for the season. At least, he didn’t want to share it publicly. All he was trying to do was carry out the job Willis and coaching staff assigned to him.
Even on his 98-yard touchdown run against Coronado, he gave more credit to his offensive line for making everything possible. He just had to do execute it on his end.
“All I’m doing is just keep going downhill,” Ortiz said. “I was just doing what I can do to be the best. The only goal I had in mind was to produce week in and week out.”
There’s also a measure of comfort because he’s finally with a coach who has been with him for two consecutive seasons. He had Mike Fuller when he was freshman, Darren Allman as a sophomore – he was on subvarsity teams for those two seasons – and interim coach Judd Thrash as a junior for spring football.
“Before anything, he’s a football player,” Willis said. “He’s got his priorities right. He doesn’t waver from who he is about. He never questions why. He just asks how.”