Wickliffe, Ortiz lead strong Goddard defensive line

By Joanna Chadwick

Braydon Wickliffe hadn’t played football since fifth grade when he went to the first practice at Goddard his freshman year.

“I had stopped playing football. I never went to any of the summer things,” said Wickliffe, a defensive end “I think they saw my work ethic. I forgot how to play, so I had to show all the effort and I had to put the time in.”

Wickliffe earned a starting spot and is eager to help lead the Lions as a four-year starter.

“It’s insane how much I learned playing as a freshman,” he said. “Being a scary little freshman to now where people are scared to go up against me. It’s also how much stronger I’ve gotten and how much smarter I’ve gotten to read things.

“I did my job freshman year just being there. I have a lot bigger job now. I need to be a leader. That’s something our coaches get after us about is our leadership. It’s really important showing the younger guys — like I was once — how to do it.”

Wickliffe has help, specifically with fellow senior Ruben Ortiz, who is at noseguard.

Ortiz is training to be a welder, a job he enjoys because “it’s so violent, but there’s something so calming about being under the hood.”

Football sort of has a similar effect.

“It’s not calm, but you get such a rush from it,” Ortiz said. “… I love the physicality of the defense. Not everyone can run head first into someone every single play. I want them to give up before I do.”

Ortiz’s toughness and work ethic are top notch.

“That comes from my family,” he said. “They’re all hard workers. My grandfather owns a horse farm… He came to this country with nothing. I want to be able to do that.”

Ortiz’s work ethic shows most in the weight room. At 6-foot, 250, he is squatting around 600 pounds and plans to break the school record at 605 pounds in a few weeks.

The results show on the field, especially when he’s double teamed on most plays.

“He’s crazy in the weight room,” Wickliffe said. “… He’s just so strong. For a noseguard, that’s what you want — someone to destroy the center.”

Ortiz added: “I feel I can outmuscle opponents, but I want to outperform you. How many times will you come at me and how long will it take for you to get tired?

“I won’t get tired. I’ve been training for this…. I’ve learned to be strong every day. Nothing makes me feel stronger than holding off two nearly grown men.”

Along with Ortiz’s strength and persistence, Wickliffe brings his own athleticism.

Wickliffe knows that people may think he’s just a big, slow guy.

“I bring a lot of speed for a defensive end,” he said. “I’m very, very athletic.”