Talk to any of the several hundred men who played football for Sonny Lubick at Colorado State University and they will tell you that the most successful coach in Rams history had a profound impact on their lives.
Lubick’s influence, though, extends far beyond those who played on his teams from 1993-2007. Many, many others admire him for the way he treated them – including Darian Ortiz.
Choosing a different path
Ortiz (B.S., early childhood education, ’18) serves in many roles – support specialist, adviser, physical educational teacher – at Compass Community Collaborative, a Fort Collins charter school for students in grades 6-12. The Fort Collins native first dreamed of becoming a teacher – and attending CSU – when many of his friends were choosing to join gangs or take drugs.
His grandfather, Jesse Ortiz, was a custodian for the Moby Arena complex for more than 20 years, and he got to know Lubick and several other CSU coaches and athletic department staff while doing his job.
“My grandfather is my everything,” Darian said. “I really didn’t know my dad – I had a single mom – so my grandfather became the father figure in my life. He taught me how to be a man – the type of man who is there for his family no matter what. Everything I am today is because of what he taught me.”
Lubick, 82, who still works as director of community leadership outreach for CSU’s College of Business, has fond memories of regular conversations with Jesse Ortiz.
“Jesse was always very friendly, and a really hard-working guy,” Lubick said. “I was taught that you treat everybody you meet with respect, so I never thought of Jesse as anything other than a good man working hard to support his family.”
During the football season, Lubick would leave two tickets to CSU home football games on his desk so Jesse could take his grandson to the game. Lubick, for whom the field at Canvas Stadium is named, also made sure that Darian and his cousin could participate in his annual summer football camps.
“There’s no way my family could have afforded to pay for us to go to those camps, but Sonny always made sure we could go,” Darian said. “Sonny giving us those opportunities – it just made our love for CSU grow. I knew that was the only place for me to go to college.”
Darian, now married and the father of two young girls, remembers the day he graduated from the College of Health and Human Sciences.
“I was the first in my family to graduate from college, and it gave me an overwhelming sense of pride,” he said. “My grandfather was there to cheer me on, and it made me feel so good to feel like I had lived up to his expectations.
“I’m a very loyal man, and I will always be loyal to CSU. By Sonny opening those doors to me I saw myself on that campus from a very young age. I will always be indebted to him. He really did change my life.”