by Andrew Garda
Mounties captain Elias Ottens stood watching practice at Woodman Field last Saturday, carefully observing the offensive line and specifically Shawn Collins, who was filling in for him at tight end.
After the play was over, the senior tight end/defensive end pulled Collins aside, carefully walked the younger player through what he was supposed to do, showed him where he was making a mistake, and sent him back into the drill to try again.
Ottens can be a gregarious and funny guy when he’s just hanging around. When he steps on the field, though — whether to practice or to play — he’s all business.
Ottens takes his role as a captain and mentor seriously. While his fellow captains, Danny Webb and Tarrin Earle, handle things on offense, Ottens, along with Willie Matthews, makes sure the defense is on point on the other side of the ball.
“Coach [Ramiccio] and Coach [Bittner] give us the greatest game plan,” he said after practice. “The one thing I try to stress on defense is to stay calm and stick to the game plan. Read your keys, do your job.”
Trying to keep it drilled down to the basics lets the defense focus and helps when things go sideways, even though that’s been rare this season.
“Willie and I just go to the defense and tell them to stay calm,” Ottens explained. “We’re fine. Do your job and everything will be all right.”
Ottens has a lot of useful tips for individual players as well. Learning how to take criticism, for example, is something he knows younger players struggle with. His biggest advice for coping with that is, as is often the case, a serious point wrapped in humor.
“Really, coach isn’t yelling at you,” Ottens tells players. “He’s just talking to you at a really high volume. He’s just letting you know something at a really high volume.”
Dealing with sometimes harsh criticism is part of the mental aspect of the game, and overcoming that is a lot of what Ottens talks to younger players about.
“Don’t ever get down on yourself,” Ottens advises underclassmen. “If you have a good play, great, forget about it, next play. If you have a bad play, great, forget about it, next play.”
It works, and there’s no better example of it than the Mounties’ sophomore center, Sebastian Fortune.
“That’s my guy. I love Sebastian. I love everyone, but that’s the guy this summer I really took to.”
Ottens took Fortune under his wing during the summer as the sophomore began working at the center position. Fortune struggled and tended to get down on himself because of it. Ottens told him to focus on each play individually, not think ahead or dwell on the past.
“I think he’s really taken that into account and now he’s an All-County player. He’s made exponential growth throughout the entire season.”
While Ottens also stresses improving technique and other aspects of the game, not beating yourself mentally is what he thinks the biggest key to success is.
Ottens is hoping to continue playing football in college, if he can find a good combination of academics and athletics — “I stress the academics and that’s what my family stresses too,” he says — but before that, he and the Mounties have unfinished business at MetLife.
“Winning this year and doing what we’ve been doing this year just makes this all feel so much sweeter. Putting in all that work and knowing you can’t come up short … it just made us drive harder and work harder this summer and this whole season.
“We need to go out there and do what we’re supposed to do on Friday and then it will all be worth it. The journey has been … I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve loved it, I’ve loved the journey.”