Oregon State tight end Ricky Ortiz is no stranger to proving people wrong.
When he stepped foot on campus at Oregon State in 2012, Ortiz began his journey as a walk-on college football player, and no one thought he would succeed. Now, Ortiz enters his senior season as a scholarship player and a big contributor the Beavers’ offense.
However, this isn’t the first time Ortiz has silenced his doubters.
“I stuck my head down and kept working. That’s what I did here as a walk-on,” Ortiz said. “That’s what I had to do. It’s been my whole life. I always just stick my head down and keep grinding. I know there are better days out there. It’s just a matter of keeping my mind to it and successfully executing and having that ‘you will not fail’ concept.”
That work ethic didn’t just come from his days on the gridiron, but it came from a decision Ortiz and his friend made in junior high, which has impacted the direction of his life and what lies ahead of him.
Ortiz and his friend, Adrian Contreras, didn’t think like typical seventh graders. Instead, their minds gave them aspirations to buy land and grow avocados. That aspiration turned into a real-life partnership.
“It was a humbling perspective on life,” Ortiz said. “I think once my friend and I got together we started having this intellectual connection every time we talked. You don’t expect seventh graders to be talking like that, talking about owning your own business, but it’s what we wanted. We wanted to have our own business one day.”
That day came shortly after the two young businessmen put their plan in place. Ortiz admits it all wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Contreras’ father, who went from “dirt poor” to a millionaire when he began growing sugar cane in Mexico.
So with the help of the elder Contreras, the two friends got to work. They bought 150 acres in Jalisco, Mexico and got to work.
Contreras and his father, who are based in Mexico, are responsbile for growing the product, while Ortiz, who is also juggling the life of a college football player, handles the business side of things, including marketing and research for future growth.
“With football and stuff, it’s very tough to run something like that while you’re doing all the other student athlete things,” Ortiz said. “I have a lot of help from (Adrian and his father). The fact that they live in Mexico really takes a lot of stress off of us.”
But despite the help, how does Ortiz find the time to get everything done between football workouts, practices, film sessions, school work and his business? That’s a question Ortiz admits he asks himself very often.
“What I really do with my classes is with every subject, whether it be homework, a project or a question on a test, I relate it back to avocados,” Ortiz said. “I relate it back to the product I know, so I learn more about it. It’s very helpful with the business because my knowledge has grown so much over the years because I’ve done so much research.”
With football being a 12-month commitment, Ortiz doesn’t get many opportunities to get down to Mexico to check things out for himself, but the lessons he’s learned in his favorite sport do play a big factor in the success of his partnership with Contreras.
“I’d say the game of football has put me in an excellent position,” Ortiz said. “Not only was I able to earn a free education, but this game has taught me (about being a) team and to rely on the guy next to you.
“You know you have 10 other guys on the field with you, and you have to rely on every one of them. You know they’re going to give you everything on every play. For me in this sense, Adrian is that guy. We have that bond, and that’s taught me to have that trust.”
That trust has led Ortiz this far, and the future seems very bright for the agricultural studies major, who plans on moving to Mexico following his graduation at Oregon State to concentrate on the business.
But for now, football takes center stage with the season opener quickly approaching. But throughout the daily challenges that come his way on the football field, Ortiz is still growing in all aspects of his busy life.
“There’s the game of football and the game of life,” Ortiz said. “I believe that they’re both so similar, and if you really take those core values from football and you’re able to implement them on the field as well as in what you do every day in life, that sets you up for success.
It’s definitely gotten me a long way. Without this game, I probably wouldn’t be in this situation.”