If you’ve ever been to a football practice at Centennial, or watched the Coyotes play, you know there’s a certain way head coach Richard Taylor likes his team to operate.
After all, there’s a reason why Taylor and the Coyotes have won three state titles since 2006: there’s something to be said for running a quality program year in and year out, with quality players.
Quality players like Jalen Ortiz for instance.
Ortiz spent his entire four years under Taylor, and worked his way to the top, and now he’s bearing the fruits of his labors.
Ortiz is all set to attend UCLA starting this fall to play alongside quarterback Brett Hundley, another quality product of the Valley.
Ortiz couldn’t be more excited to make the move to Westwood and the Pac-12.
Ortiz said after he made his official visit to the Bruins, he knew that UCLA was the place for him.
“I just feel real comfortable with the coaching staff, the players are great, the atmosphere [is great], and I just feel like it’s a program that’s on the rise and I want to be a part of it,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz made unofficial visits to Arizona State, Stanford, Washington and USC, while his only two official visits were to Utah and UCLA.
Evidentially Ortiz wanted to play in the Pac-12, and he got his wish.
Along with the opportunity to play with Hundley, Ortiz gets to have Jim Mora as his head coach.
Mora recently signed a one-year extension through 2017, something which put Ortiz’s mind at ease.
“It was good to know,” Ortiz said. “Everyone was talking about they’re hearing Coach Mora might leave, and to see him sign that extension just proves that he’s gonna be there every year that I’m there, so that’s something good.”
Ortiz vividly remembered the first and only time he played against Hundley, when Hundley was a senior at Chandler High School.
“I got to see him up close and personal [and] what he could do,” Ortiz said. “He’s just a beast, so it’s great we’re on the same team now.”
Ortiz says Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have already got him set to play the slot position at wide receiver and some running back as well.
“I just plan on going in there, working hard and doing my thing and hopefully it’ll earn me some playing time,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz says his main focus once he gets to Los Angeles, besides hitting the books, is to play football. He says running track for the Bruins isn’t a make or break thing. He’d be okay whether he runs track or not.
Ortiz ranked the Sun Devils third behind the Bruins and Washington in his decision making process.
He said the prospect of staying at home did intrigue him.
“Yea it mattered just to be home and my family and friends could come to every game, but when it was all said and done, UCLA was the place for me,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz liked what he saw from the Sun Devils this past season.
“They’re headed in the right direction,” Ortiz said. “I like the discipline that coach [Todd] Graham brought to ASU, and just the fact that it was a hometown team, that played a big factor as well.”
Ortiz called Taylor “the greatest man I’ve ever played for.” Ortiz says he has no idea where he would be if were not for Taylor’s guidance and direction over the last four years.
“He’s one of those coaches, you don’t want to let him down, you don’t want to see him disappointed, so you do everything you can to make sure he’s up,” Ortiz said.
So, Ortiz is ready to get things started in college. He’s also looking forward to the whole college experience, which he thinks will help him grow into a man.
“That’s the school that’s going to set me up to succeed in life, and be a better man and be a great father and husband one day,” he said.