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Originally published Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 02:45p.m.

For Mingus Union head football coach Robert Ortiz, Mardquez Mestas’ last high school game exemplifies the way be played football.

Even though the game seemed to be decided, Mestas refused to give up in the Marauders’ state quarterfinal loss at Tucson Salpointe Catholic. Ortiz remembers the senior receiver/defensive back getting four catches in the second half.

Fast-forward to Friday and Mestas signed with Dakota State after not giving up after not playing much until his senior year of high school.

“He’s not a quitter, he’s not that kid, he’s going to do whatever it takes to be successful in the classroom, in the weight room, on the field and in life in general, so that’s a moment that really stands out to me,” Ortiz said.

Mestas signed with Dakota State at the MUHS library with supporters in attendance.

“Oh it’s awesome, it’s definitely a relief, I just gotta work harder now,” Mestas said about signing.

Mestas joins teammates Colby Fanning, Kendrew Streck, Antoine Zabala and Gabe Meyers who signed with Dakota State last month.

“It’ll be awesome, it’ll be great to know some people there and be able to keep our brotherhood going,” Mestas said.

Ortiz also played at Dakota State.

“I think it’s awesome, I mean I think we kinda started something with the first group of guys,” Ortiz said. “Mardquez was in limbo about what he wanted to do at the time, wasn’t fully sure, but I think at the end of the day sending a group of guys is always better than sending one by themselves because they can kinda lean on each other to help get them through those times and they show up on campus and they’re familiar with somebody. So it’s a new town, new state, new school but they have somebody with something in common already, as soon as they get off the plane.”

Mestas picked DSU because he liked their program and it made the most financial sense. He is looking to major in business.

“It was the cheapest option to be honest and I really liked their program and what they’re going to be doing later on,” Mestas said.

DSU is located in Madison, South Dakota and has an enrollment of about 3,000. The Trojans compete in the North Star Athletic Association and the NAIA.

Ortiz said Dakota State is getting a player who works very hard is reliable in situations like 3rd and long.

“In my eyes they’re getting a hard working, consistent, student-athlete who’s gonna do what it takes in the classroom most importantly, in the weight room and on the field on a very consistent basis to contribute to the program,” Ortiz said. “If it was a 3rd and 12 situation, I knew I could count on him to be at the sticks in a curl or comeback type route. He’s a little more of a possession receiver, he’s a great route runner, he’s got good, consistent hands.”

Mestas emerged in his senior year, getting 15 catches in 10 games and averaging 12.3 yards a reception.

“It was I think my coming out year and it was really fun to just show what I have to offer and showcase,” Mestas said.

He said he’s wanted to play college football since he first strapped on a helmet.

“I think it’s extremely, extremely awesome to see a kid like him sign, to continue his football and educational career,” Ortiz said. “He was one of those guys that wasn’t always the most athletic but definitely was the most hard working and his grades reflect that His work ethic really speaks for itself. He came a long way from the time that I first got here He has the height, he has the route running ability to play at the next level and his work ethic will certainly help him increase in areas that he’ll need to work on at the next but it’s extremely awesome to see a kid’s hard work to pay off.”

Mestas’ story of hard work, not giving up and moving on to the next level will prove valuable to the program.

“I think that’s huge Mardquez will be story that I use within the program of saying ‘hey look, he wasn’t always the guy, freshman football, he can tell you the story, JV football, he can tell you the story, his junior year he can tell you that he hardly saw the field at all and to be such a contributor his senior year and be a consistent guy that we leaned on week to week, his work ethic speaks for itself,” Ortiz said. “So that’s a story you can use with the younger kids, like ‘hey, it might not be paying off now, but it’s gonna pay off by the time you’re 17, 18 years old through consistency, so I think it’s huge to bring in younger guys that can use that as example.”

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