Johnson-Ortiz set to play for the Dutchmen

By on April 12, 2017
Warwick lineman Dakota Johnson-Ortiz (63), shown here blocking with tight end Justin Smith for QB Colin Gibble in 2015, will continue his football career at Lebanon Valley College. Lititz Record file photo

Warwick lineman Dakota Johnson-Ortiz (63), shown here blocking with tight end Justin Smith for QB Colin Gibble in 2015, will continue his football career at Lebanon Valley College. Lititz Record file photo

Dakota Johnson-Ortiz thought he was dreaming.

This past September, the Warwick senior was still waking up the morning after helping his teammates nearly pull off an upset of Wilson when his cell phone started to hum.

It was Lebanon Valley College assistant football coach Jack Beidler sending him a text.

“I was like, ‘Holy crap, who is this? Did he just text me?,’” Johnson-Ortiz said. “It was amazing.”

A couple weeks later, he met Beidler during the Dutchmen’s game day against Delaware Valley University, and was impressed.

Ultimately, it wasn’t a hard decision for Johnson-Ortiz, a two-year starting offensive lineman for the Warriors, to commit at LVC, where he will continue his football and academic careers.

“The weekend after we beat Lebanon, Tyler Borg and I went up and visited and I loved it there. I fell in love right away,” Johnson-Ortiz said. “I went there before when I was a sophomore and I thought it was wonderful. Then I saw some of the professors for the major (math education) I’m going into and they were just great. I loved them.”

For a time, Johnson-Ortiz was uncertain whether he’d even be able to play in college. Due to a knee injury sustained against Cocalico in the Warriors’ final scrimmage prior to the 2014 campaign, he missed his entire sophomore season.

“I didn’t think I had a chance at playing college ball after my sophomore year because of me basically tearing my whole knee up,” Johnson-Ortiz said. “I was just like, ‘Wow, (LVC) actually want me to play there.’”

Johnson-Ortiz had been to Bloomsburg University for a football game and Millersville University for team camp, but never really thought about either place as a potential landing spot. At 5-foot-11, 245 pounds, he knew that his size was probably wouldn’t allow him to play at a Division-Two school.

If anything, J-O, as he is known to his teammates, thought he could try out for the Dutchmen.

“I just really wanted to get my education,” he said. “If I’d have a chance anywhere, it’d be like a D-3.”

The text from Beidler got the ball rolling. Austin Maguire, a 2015 Warwick grad and a sophomore on the LVC football team, checked in with Johnson-Ortiz soon after Beidler.

“Maguire texted me, he’s the one that gave coach Beidler my number,” Johnson-Ortiz recalled, “and he said, ‘This is amazing. You’re probably going to play at LVC with us. That’s really cool.’”

It’s not just Maguire who J-O will know from Warwick when he gets to Lebanon Valley. Tommy Garner, Adam Wagaman and Tyler Melhorn are also on the Dutchmen’s roster, and fellow senior Tyler Gerhart is part of this recruiting class as well.

“I liked how (LVC) was more of a smaller school,” Johnson-Ortiz said. “Maguire and all of them go up there, so I like how they said, ‘We know a lot of people,’ and the majority of people that go there play sports. You hang out with more of the sports people, so I thought that was cool too.”

Johnson-Ortiz was recruited to play guard on the LVC offensive line. Learning the positions at center and tackle could also be in his future.

As a senior co-captain at Warwick, he was part of an O-line which paved the way for the Warriors to average 359 yards of offense per game.

Asked what he thought his strengths are, J-O said, “I feel like I’m a good leader. Very smart football-wise. I feel like hopefully someday I could coach offensive linemen. And getting off the ball quickly.”

Warrior coach Bob Locker praised Johnson-Ortiz for his level of perseverance.

“When you think about the fact that he missed most of his sophomore year and he had some dings his junior year,” Locker said, “the kid is a phenomenal worker, overcomes obstacles and if playing time is based on how hard you go about working at it, I don’t have any doubts that he’ll be successful up there.”

Locker, too, mentioned Johnson-Ortiz’s quickness as one of his attributes.

“He gets off the ball in a hurry and works very hard at it,” Warwick’s head coach remarked. “And like I said, he has perseverance, he’s tenacious, and very few people will ever out-work him.”

Johnson-Ortiz will join a Dutchmen team that gelled toward the end of the 2016 season, winning their final three games to finish 4-6 overall.

While preparing to play at the next level, J-O knows there are areas where he can still get better.

“Hopefully my lateral moving could improve and my pass blocking,” Johnson-Ortiz said.

Make no mistake, he’s simply glad for the chance.

“It’s just fantastic,” Johnson-Ortiz said.

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