Ricky Ortiz is all business these days.
Whether it’s running play-action pass patterns out of the backfield for the Oregon State football team, or searching for machinery to supplement his avocado enterprise in Mexico, the 2012 Mater Dei High School graduate doesn’t take many days off.
His business plan dates almost as far back as his football career, when as a seventh grader he and his best friend talked of buying land and growing avocados, a fruit they were convinced would surge in demand.
They eventually used family connections to purchase 200,000 avocado trees on 150 acres in Jalisco, Mexico, and recently decided to expand their business by investing in guacamole-making machines as well.
“We have the product, we have the land, we have the trees,” Ortiz said the week before Oregon State’s season opener against Minnesota. “Next step is to really get our hands on some guacamole-making machines and run some tests and find some clients in the U.S.”
Ortiz’s decision to attend Oregon State was also rooted in his future business plans. The university has one of the top agricultural science departments in the nation, which helped convince Ortiz to commit to the Beavers as a walk-on. That meant he’d pay his own way the first two years.
Shortly after he made that commitment, however, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder offered Ortiz a full scholarship. Ortiz stuck by his word and kindly turned down the legendary college coach.
“It wasn’t a bad conversation,” Ortiz said. “I told him where I was going and he said wherever I went, I was going to be successful.”
Ortiz has become one of Oregon State’s most versatile players the last four years.
After playing linebacker and fullback at Mater Dei, he redshirted his first year at Oregon State while slotted as the scout team tight end. He earned playing time in 2013 as a back-up fullback and regular on special teams.
Prior to the 2014 season, Ortiz was recognized for his hard work and awarded a scholarship.
He caught 12 passes for 90 yards as a redshirt sophomore that season, and led the Beavers with 11 special-teams tackles. He was needed on defense last season, however, and moved to linebacker. Still wearing No. 42, he started one game and appeared in 10 others.
The entire time, Ortiz continued to focus on his education, earning Pac-12 Conference all-academic honors for a third straight season.
Ortiz was asked to make another position change last spring, moving to H-back, a hybrid position that’s part fullback, part tight end. He’s in the hunt for a full-time starting role this fall, one of the few goals he’s yet to accomplish at Oregon State.
“The biggest challenge was just the mindset,” he said of the latest position change. “Being able to adjust and adapt, and really just taking in the playbook.”
Ortiz’s avocado enterprise is in full motion, but he’s still open to playing football beyond this season, even if it means going north of the U.S. border and into the Canadian Football League.
“Because of the [company] team we have, I’ll be able to do other things,” he said. “I’d definitely be interested in playing at the next level.”
On this business side, he’s already ahead of his peers.