When Bakersfield College running back Elisha Ortiz takes a handoff in the backfield, he hopes what transpires is reminiscent of other more prominent running backs known around the country and the world. He has four main influences that he tries to model his play after: current or former NFL stars Reggie Bush (from his USC days), Christian McCaffrey, Le’Veon Bell and Kareem Hunt.

“Some of the little, smaller guys that have big roles as running backs and dominate their position,” Ortiz explained.

Though Ortiz isn’t physically imposing — listed as 6 feet, 178 pounds on last season’s roster — he broke out as a freshman at BC, accumulating 13 touchdowns and more than 1,000 total yards rushing and receiving. In his second season as a Renegade before trying to move on to Division I, Ortiz has his sights set on becoming an All-California and All-American running back while rushing for more than 1,000 yards. His success will likely stem from what he’s taken away from watching his heros perform.

“I want to go out with a bang my last year,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz started playing football at age 7 and knew he had talent right away. It wasn’t until junior year at Stockdale that he realized he had a future in football and began to take it seriously.

Stockdale varsity coach Brett Shelton could tell Ortiz was a “next level” talent when Ortiz was a freshman.

“What most people don't understand about Elisha is he doesn’t take a day off,” Shelton said. “What you see on a Saturday or a Friday game is what he puts out in a practice. … He doesn’t say much in practice. He just grinds it and he enjoyed it.”

A key aspect in his development came outside of the practice field and weightroom that even his coaches likely didn’t see.

From Bell, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ortiz learned to be patient in the backfield, wait for a hole to develop and attack as soon as it does. Ortiz considers field vision the best aspect of his own and Bell’s skill sets. BC head coach Jeff Chudy appreciates Ortiz’s ability to make defenders miss the most, but noted he never needs a big crease to make a big play.

Ortiz admired Bush’s speed and ability to break tackles while in college and how the USC alumnus “explode(d) after contact.” With McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers) and Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs), Ortiz tried to replicate their abilities to line up in the slot and become dangerous options as receivers.

He studied all the footage he could find online in order to apply the strengths and techniques to his game.

“I know a lot of kids probably always wanted to be like (Bush),” Ortiz said, “but he plays the running back position and has always been something that’s been influential to me.”

Ortiz is widely considered one of the two fastest players on BC’s team, along with receiver Cameron Roberson. The consensus is that Ortiz would beat Roberson in a 40-yard dash but Roberson would win a 100-yard race.

Like his role models, Ortiz was a constant threat through the air (occasionally lining up in the slot), and he finished 2017 as BC’s second leading receiver in terms of yards (288).

“You kind of want to have the chance to get one-on-one with a linebacker or maybe even a DB and get the ball up in open field,” Ortiz said. “Those plays are fun to run.”

He has dreams of reaching the NFL level like his idols, but will settle for the CFL or “anything where I can continue to play football” until he’s in his 30s.

Before that, he’ll try to move on to a four-year school after BC — Ortiz holds a scholarship offer from Division I Arkansas State, he said, and thinks more will come after this season. And before that, he’ll try to lead BC.

Jon Mettus can be reached at 661-395-7389. Follow him on Twitter: @jmettus.

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