For most offensive football players, big catches, long runs and touchdowns are the types of plays that give Saturdays their shine, those moments when all the eyes of a jam-packed stadium are fixed on the highlight makers.
Omar Ontiveros gets his kicks from a different kind of play.
“I’m always real excited to see someone get pancaked,” he said after a recent Texas Tech practice.
Such is the life a fullback, whose dirty work paves the way for those highlight runs. Ontiveros, the 6-foot-1, 236-pound junior from Austin Westlake, relishes every minute of it.
“You don’t really get any love, but I love it,” Ontiveros said. “I love the contact. It fits me perfectly. I went from buried on the depth chart to now having a role on this team, so I’m fine with it.”
Ontiveros arrived at Tech in 2010 as a defensive end and played that position on the scout team as a freshman. During spring practice before his sophomore year, he was approached with an opportunity to jump to the other side of the ball.
He didn’t hesitate.
“They asked me if I wanted to hit somebody and I said, ‘Yeah,’” Ontiveros recalled. “I’m not scared to hit anybody.”
Ontiveros received high marks as a blocking back last season, and he excelled on special teams. It was the kind of work that has endeared him to his teammates.
“Omar is like the hidden secret to our offense, to our run game,” running back DeAndre Washington said. “He doesn’t even like running the ball. He just likes blocking and opening up holes for us (running backs), so he’s huge for us.”
When reviewing his offense following the 2011 season, offensive coordinator Neal Brown had no trouble agreeing with Washington’s assessment. The new fullback was a strong force in the run game, becoming a quick study at the position.
But in some ways, Brown discovered, Ontiveros’ strength could also be a hindrance for the offense, simply because of the alarms he set off for opposing defenses when he came in.
“I told him in December, ‘Listen, Omar. You do a great job blocking, but we’re super one-dimensional when you’re in the game,’” Brown said. “‘You’ve got to learn pass protection and you’ve got to catch the ball.’ Over the past nine months, he’s done that.”
Ontiveros worked on his hands, and delved into the pass-protection schemes, all with a quiet, humble work ethic that has earned him the nickname ‘Easy’ among teammates.
Ontiveros’ progress means more versatility for a Tech offense that’s using two-back sets more frequently that at any other time during Brown’s three-year tenure in Lubbock. Last season, Ontiveros lining up as part of a two-back set meant he would be barreling into a hole, his shoulder lowered and aimed at some opposing linebacker.
This season, though, a hint of mystery follows Ontiveros onto the field.
“It keeps them on their toes,” he said. “This way they can’t all crash down. They have to be ready for either the run or the pass.”
Still, don’t expect Ontiveros to become a finesse player anytime soon. His game might becoming more versatile, but it won’t be any less physical.
“He’s very tough, brings a lot of toughness out of the backfield,” Tech backup quarterback Michael Brewer said. “He’s a guy that can go in there and make some big blocks and open up some big holes for us.”
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