Tony Ortiz was an east coast guy pulled in by Assistant Coach Tony Samuel in the mid-90s. He had a rough “pledge year” as his scout team played against the guys considered the greatest team of all time in the 1995 Huskers. He is now living in Texas and coaching youth football on his son’s teams.
Tony Ortiz, Linebacker
*1997--As a sophomore he played in 12 games with 32 tackles and had 3.5 sacks. He started in the National Championship game in a win versus Tenn.
*1998--A starter, he had 46 tackles with 20 solo tackles and 9 tackles for loss. Had a 14-tackle day versus Oklahoma State.
*1999-He had 44 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception in his senior year. His pick came in the Big 12 Championship game in a victory over Texas.
First impressions of the Husker defense so far?
I think they have a lot of heart and are getting better. I do think they have a lot of talent too, but only with this staff for just over a year so it takes time to jell and play as fast as you can and max that talent.
Any big changes from last year?
From my viewpoint thousands of miles away in Texas, it looks like they are tackling better than they have the last five or six years and playing as more of a unit. Seems like all going in the same direction and a better understanding of the schemes, but lots of D coordinators for seniors on this team.
Player that stands out?
I really like Mo Barry, but again, as a unit, they look better. And Mo is going to be tested with Ohio State as they are going to run until Nebraska shows them that they can stop it. He is that inside linebacker that needs to step up this weekend.
You were an East Coast guy, why NU?
At the time there was a few Jersey guys at Nebraska so when they heard you were looking at NU, they reached out and I got a good feel from them. Then on my recruiting trip growing up in New York City, Nebraska was just like country to me with all the farmland and I liked it.
Where if not Nebraska?
Syracuse and Penn State were both doing well at the time and had coaches that got your attention with Joe Paterno and Paul Pasqualoni, so I was talking with them as well.
Remember about teammate Frost, the redshirt?
Scott and I were redshirts together after he transferred from Stanford. He did get the business you could say in 1995 from some of the vets but they did that to all the redshirts. And Scott took it great and gave it right back and he became a better player. Scott is so competitive that he never took it easy on them either.
What do you remember about Frost, the player?
He had a good year in 1996 but when you are replacing Tommie and the 1995 team if you didn’t win it all or be All-American, you would get criticized. But it just made him work harder.
I think the Washington game in 1997 where he broke those TD runs is when he started to become more verbal. He had always been a leader with his actions but now being more vocal to add to that and we followed.
Frosh moment maybe where you felt overwhelmed?
In 1995 I saw Aaron Graham and some other 300 pounders running as fast as me and I was thinking, “OK THIS is another level of football.”
Moment in a game you arrived a bit as a player?
I think it was practice where you really did, but from a game standpoint, maybe the Baylor game in 1996? I really felt things were slowing down and I was making some plays.
A Coach Samuel Story?
So my class schedule was a little messed up where once a week I had to leave early for a lab or something. Coach Sam calls me over and said basically--hey, no worries on missing football for school. Just remember school is first (but he held up two fingers) and football is second (and he held up one finger).
The next day I got a note in my dorm room that my schedule had been changed and I wouldn’t be missing practice anymore.
Coach Samuel things that you guys would laugh about?
He called everyone “Chief,” not a buddy or guy. So when he was leaving all the players bought him this long Indian pipe for him to remember us by.
Your scout team memories in 1995?
You couldn’t touch Tommie or LP. But Clinton (Childs) was another deal as not a starter but that was a man right there. Just how big and fast he was with such good feet, along with being physical, you knew you better be ready for him or it could be painful or embarrassing.
You were there for an eventual Heisman Trophy winner on the scout team in 1997 with Eric Crouch, memories of him on scout team?
Yeah, I had no idea who he was as I didn’t play attention to recruiting. You knew guys who went through the motions on scout team and that just happy to be there but that was not Eric. He was a bad-ass from the beginning with being physical and his speed.
There was one play that he out-ran me significantly and that really never happened to me, especially with a quarterback and it made me think, “Oh my.” I came off the field and Coach McBride smiled at me and said “That kid is going to be special.”