Next man up.
In sports, injuries create opportunities for other players to step in and take advantage of their increased role.
For freshman wide receiver Jorge Portorreal, the same holds true.
Portorreal, a 5-foot-9 inch, 170-pound wide receiver from Union, New Jersey, is quickly adjusting to the speed of the game and helping the Mountain Hawks on the field following an injury to junior wide receiver Luke Christiano.
“There was definitely a lot of challenges, I started off a little slow,” Portorreal said. “I played at a really high level in high school — St. Peter’s Prep (in Jersey City, NJ) — so a lot of the stuff was similar, but the game speed was so much faster.”
In his third game, Portorreal reeled in five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown last week against Yale University. Despite the team’s loss, he earned Patriot League Freshman of the Week honors for his performance.
Portorreal has been able to translate his athleticism from high school to the college game, using his past experience as a cornerback to help him succeed at the next level.
“Being a corner helps you guess what the other guy is going to do or how his leverage is going to be, and knowing what coverage they are,” Portorreal said. “Just little stuff that helps you read defensives, so playing corner helped me a lot.”
Portorreal has improved his game every day by working with the team’s top wide receivers, including seniors Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey, and by getting in extra reps with junior starting quarterback Brad Mayes.
Mayes, who has an NFL prospect to throw to in Pelletier, still sees the potential in Portorreal who is slowly becoming one of his favorite targets.
“He runs excellent routes, has good hands, he’s fast and was a great addition to our offense,” Mayes said. “This past weekend, I was really relying on him to make this one guy miss every time, and if he didn’t, I was going to get on him. But I think he is one of the better route runners I have been around in a long time, and I think if he just works on his craft he will be a good player here for a long time.”
As a team, the Mountain Hawks have not found their rhythm early in the season, starting out 0-3. Lehigh will face off against the defending Ivy League Champion UPenn on Saturday at Goodman Stadium. It will be up to players like Portorreal, Mayes and Pelletier to grab the first win of the season and prepare for upcoming conference games.
“I think we are going to pick the intensity up a lot this week,” Portorreal said. “We just got to go out there and perform on Saturday. I don’t think Patriot League and out-of-conference games are any different in terms of me. I’m a competitor. I want to win every game whether it’s in or out of conference.”
Independent of this season’s outcome, Portorreal will still have three more years to obtain a Patriot League championship ring and establish himself as a serious offensive weapon. With an All-American in Pelletier and an All-Patriot Leaguer in Casey graduating after this season, Portorreal’s opportunity to step into the No.1 receiving option will come soon.
“Certainly I think the sky’s the limit for (Portorreal) because of his athleticism, it’s something that’s really special,” coach Tim McGorry said. “He has a great work ethic and if you put those two things together as he goes forward, he can go as far as he wants.”