Ralph Ortega, 2006
No. 55, 54
|Date of birth:July 6, 1953|
|Place of birth: Havana, Cuba|
|High school: Coral Gables (FL)|
|NFL Draft: 1975 / Round: 2 / Pick: 29|
|Debuted in 1975 for the Atlanta Falcons|
|Last played in 1980 for the Miami Dolphins|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
|Stats at pro-football-reference.com|
|Stats at DatabaseFootball.com|
Ralph Ortega (born July 6, 1953) is a former American college and professional football player who was a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for six seasons during the 1970s and early 1980s. Ortega played college football for the University of Florida, and received All-American honors. A second-round pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, he played professionally for the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins of the NFL.
Ortega was born in Havana, Cuba in 1953, but moved to Miami, Florida with his family when he was a child. Ortega played high school football for legendary coach Nick Kotys at Coral Gables High School in Coral Gables, Florida, and was a shot-put specialist on the track and field team. Two of his Coral Gables Cavaliers football teammates, defensive back Neal Colzie and fullback-linebacker Glenn Cameron, were first-round 1975 NFL Draft picks of the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively.
In 2007, thirty-six years after he graduated from high school, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) recognized Ortega as one of the "100 Greatest Players of the First 100 Years" of Florida high school football.
Ortega received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played linebacker for head coach Doug Dickey's Florida Gators football team from 1971 to 1974. Memorably, in 1973, he helped the Gators beat the Auburn Tigers for the first time at Jordan-Hare Stadium in fourteen visits. Ortega's big play was a crushing tackle that caused a fumble by Auburn tailback Chris Linderman inside the Gators' five yard-line shortly before halftime. The Gators won 12–8, with Auburn's only points coming near the end of the game. The Gators' coach, Doug Dickey, was carried from the field by his players after the game. At the time, it was called "one of the greatest moments in Florida Gators football history."
Ortega finished his four-season college career with 357 tackles, twelve forced fumbles (eight recovered), and five interceptions. He was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) selection in 1973 and 1974, a first-team All-American in 1974, an Academic All-American, and the team captain during his senior year. He graduated from Florida with a bachelor's degree in management in 1976, and was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great" in 1978. In a 2006 article series written for The Gainesville Sun, the Sun sports editors recognized him as No. 40 among the top 100 players of the first century of Florida Gators football.
Ortega enjoyed a six-year professional football career in the NFL. He was chosen in the second round (twenty-ninth pick overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He was a starting linebacker in 1977, and a key component of the renowned "Grits Blitz" Falcons defense, before being relegated to special teams in 1978. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a future third-round draft pick in 1979. He finished his NFL career with the Dolphins in 1980. During his six NFL seasons, Ortega played in eighty-one regular season games, intercepted five passes and recovered seven fumbles.
Life after the NFL
Oretga's son, Buck Ortega, played college football for the Miami Hurricanes as a quarterback and tight end from 2001 to 2004, after winning the Florida Class 2A state high school football championship as the quarterback for Gulliver Preparatory School in 2000. Ortega served as an assistant coach for his son's Gulliver Prep team, and had a close mentor relationship with future NFL star defensive back Sean Taylor, one of his son's Gulliver Prep teammates and close friends.
- 1974 College Football All-America Team
- Florida Gators
- Florida Gators football, 1970–79
- History of the Atlanta Falcons
- List of Florida Gators football All-Americans
- List of Florida Gators football players
- List of Miami Dolphins players
- List of University of Florida alumni
- Pro-Football-Reference.com, Players, Ralph Ortega. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
- databaseFootball.com, Players Ralph Ortega. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
- "FHSAA unveils '100 Greatest Players of First 100 Years' as part of centennial football celebration," Florida High School Athletic Association (December 4, 2007). Retrieved May 26, 2011.
- 2011 Florida Gators Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 87, 91, 96, 124, 153, 184 (2011). Retrieved August 31, 2011.
- F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved June 23, 2010. "Bean And Koch Inducted," The Ledger, p. 1D (March 30, 1978). Retrieved June 23, 2010.
- Robbie Andreu & Pat Dooley, "No. 40 Ralph Ortega," The Gainesville Sun (July 25, 2006). Retrieved April 2, 2013.
- National Football League, Historical Players, Ralph Ortega. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
- Pro Football Hall of Fame, Draft History, 1975 National Football League Draft. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
- Associated Press, "Falcons Trade Ortega," The Evening Independent, p. 6C (April 19, 1979). Retrieved June 5, 2010.
- Carlson, Norm, University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators, Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia (2007). ISBN 0-7948-2298-3.
- Golenbock, Peter, Go Gators! An Oral History of Florida's Pursuit of Gridiron Glory, Legends Publishing, LLC, St. Petersburg, Florida (2002). ISBN 0-9650782-1-3.
- Hairston, Jack, Tales from the Gator Swamp: A Collection of the Greatest Gator Stories Ever Told, Sports Publishing, LLC, Champaign, Illinois (2002). ISBN 1-58261-514-4.
- McCarthy, Kevin M., Fightin' Gators: A History of University of Florida Football, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (2000). ISBN 978-0-7385-0559-6.
- McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama (1974). ISBN 0-87397-025-X.
- Nash, Noel, ed., The Gainesville Sun Presents The Greatest Moments in Florida Gators Football, Sports Publishing, Inc., Champaign, Illinois (1998). ISBN 1-57167-196-X.