It doesn’t flow off the tongue quite as easily as “Linsanity,” but Jets fans could be getting ready for some “Ortiz-Santanity.”
Meet Josue Ortiz-Santana, a tryout player out of Harvard, who has been attempting to impress at this weekend’s Jets rookie camp. He played defensive tackle in the Ivy League, but at 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds he is trying to make the Jets roster as a linebacker. In terms of build and looks, he bears a resemblance to former Jets linebacker Jason Taylor and his ticket to a mini-camp invite will be at strong side linebacker as a pass-rusher.
“I got a phone call from [linebacker] coach Mike Smith. He invited me to come out here, come to mini-camp and essentially have a tryout,” Ortiz-Santana told Metro New York.
“He thought I could have the potential to help them. I’ve got the veteran Eddie Jones showing me how to play the SAM position. It’s been a great ride.”
Leading up to the draft, he trained for the Boston College Pro Day -- Harvard like many Ivy League and Patriot League programs didn’t host a pro day -- at Parisi Speed Academy in Fairlawn, N.J. He showed well at the pro day in front of Jets scouts and also had a good effort at the Upstart Classic in Arkansas, an all-star game for seniors. He was then invited to a regional workout the Jets hosted, where he went through positional drills and then an interview time.
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For a program that often sends players to Madison Avenue as opposed to the NFL, Ortiz-Santana’s prospects of playing on Sunday are not exactly typical.
In fact, there’s little typical of the young man.
During his senior year of high school at Avon Park, Fla., Ortiz-Santana not only got his high school diploma, but also earned his associate’s degree. He had offers from a few smaller college programs and was considering walking-on at Florida State when Harvard came in with interest. He called going to the brainy school a “no-brainer,” a decision in large part predicated on the desire of his parents to put education above football.
Ortiz-Santana excelled not only in the classroom, where he will become the first person from Highlands County to graduate from Harvard, but also on the gridiron and now he has a chance to make it in the NFL.
“The coaches are saying that I’ve got the potential to come out here, make the team,” Ortiz-Santana said. “If I can play SAM and rush linebacker, I’ve got a shot to make this team. I’m picking up the playbook well, understanding things. It’s been fun.”
The comparisons to Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin are there for the taking. Both players were under-recruited in high school and chose the Ivy League over walk-on options at more mainstream programs. And like Lin, Ortiz-Santana now hopes to become a professional based off a scrappy work ethic and a keen mind for the game.
An NFL scout, speaking to Metro New York on the condition of anonymity, said Ortiz-Santana is a strong prospect to make a practice squad this year, but “Physically, his best bet is likely the UFL to catch up with higher level football and the physicality, pace of it.”
“Ortiz-Santanity” might be an uphill battle, but don’t count the linebacker out.
“From a football standpoint, I played with Desmond Bryant who is a defensive end at the Raiders. It can be done. It isn’t easy; it’s a long road,” Ortiz-Santana said. “I look at a guy like Jeremy and you see that there’s a way to go out there and do it.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer as he covers Jets rookie mini-camp all weekend.