2 Minute Drill with "Sledge"

In this exclusive interview, we talk to Idaho middle linebacker JO ARTIS RATTI, known as "Sledge" by the Vandal faithful because of his tenacious style of play. Asked why he chose to change his jersey to number one, he told us, "...I want everybody to play as one, as one force...I want that to symbolize our defense." We also talked about his goals this year, his coach, and what's in his iPod.

Player Profile: Jo Artis Ratti, 6-1, 220, Senior, Midle Linebacker

Very quietly last fall, Jo Artis Ratti joined the University of Idaho football program. Little did any of us know how much of an impact he would make on this team...or on opponents.

In 2004, as a sophomore at LA Southwest College, Ratti earned Defensive Player of the Year honors for the Western State Conference. He was a First Team All-Conference selection as a freshman in 2003. As a sophomore, he earned one of the most prized honors as a JC athlete, being named to the 2004 JC Gridwire All-American Team as a Third Team selection. In 2005 he was ranked among the Top 25 JC linebackers in America by CollegeFootballNews.com and was named an All-California Division IV selection. He visited Oregon in January of 2005, but would delay his college selection for a year.

Ratti crosses the goal line against USU.
Fortunately for Idaho, his choice was Dennis Erickson and the Vandal football program.

An athlete brimming with energy and talent, Jo Artis hit the ground running last fall. His first action of the season came against Idaho State, and despite only being in the program just a few weeks he battled two seniors (Jaron Williams and Robert Davis) for playing time immediately. In just six games before his season was cut short by an injury, he compiled 32 tackles (10th on the team for the season), three sacks (tied for #1 on the team), and put the icing on a 41-14 thumping of the Aggies at Utah State when he scooped up a fumble and raced 74 yards for the touchdown.

This spring he changed his jersey number from 43 to 1, and is perched securely as Idaho's starting middle linebacker.

Ratti sports No. 1 on his jersey this spring.
(GAYLEN WOOD / VandalVenue.com)
Unmistakably, he's a leader on this team. He wants that role, and he's earned that badge with the team. He's earned the nickname "Sledge" with the fans not only because he can thump an opponent (which he can...and does), but because he has an impressive, aggressive motor on the field and he seems to keep it going 100% all the time. And his 100% is generally moving along at an impressive clip.

But what we've learned this week is that he's a team-first kind of player. He wants this team to compete as a single unit at a high velocity...and he has no problems being the catalyst getting it moving.

Below is a conversation we had with Jo Artis this week regarding his goals for the season, his goals for the team, and a little bit of information about Jo Artis Ratti the man.

Earning the nickname...

LARRY JOHNSON: You had an injury that slowed you down last season. Are you 100% now?

JAR: "Yes, I believe so. I didn't need surgery; so we just rehabbed it. Right now I don't feel it at all. It's feels pretty good to me. I'm just rolling with it."

LJ: So why did you change to number one? I was so used to 43 out there on the field, seeing 43 doing all these things. Now we've got number one.

JAR: "Yeah, I changed it because this is how I want the defense to end up, playing as one. I just want everybody to play as one, as a whole team, as one force. That's the reason why I wore it on the defensive side, because I wanted that to symbolize our defense."

LJ: Now you're a senior and a leader on the team. What are your expectations for yourself this fall, and what are your expectations for the team?

JAR: "I expect us to do every well this year, actually. I expect us to go to a bowl game. For myself, just to play better than I did last year, stay healthy through the season, make it better for the other players on my team. That's about it."

LJ: Before you got here, Idaho had a really young defense. Now we've got a different defense that's loaded with people with 3 or so years of playing time. What does that experience mean to how the team prepares now? How important is experience?

JAR: "That is very important, very important. We've got a lot of veterans on the team this year at DB, also a couple of people on the D-line have been here. It's helping us a lot. I mean, there are a lot of people that have seen different plays, played different games, you know what I'm saying? All the knowledge on the field helps a lot. I think that should help us a lot this year."

LJ: Describe the play of the defensive line...what role do they play, and is it any better as compared to last year?

JAR: "I think it is. I think our line is a big help to us this year. They're more fundamentally sound this year. They know more. Right now we're out a couple of players due to injuries or academic reasons; so we're kinda low on D-line. But when they come back they're going to help. They're going to help us a lot just with their physicality and their mental work. It helps us a lot."

LJ: How does the new defense under Coach Criner compare to last year's defense? Do you like the new schemes? You have a veteran team around you, but are the players picking up the differences?

JAR: "Oh yeah, we are. I mean, of course it's going to take us a while for us to get used to new calls and stuff like that, but I love the way they're teaching us. They're teaching us real…it's really fun. They're making it fun out there for us. We're coming along. We're going to be a very exciting defense this year. We're moving around. It's going to be a really good D."

LJ: Describe your new linebacker coach Al Genatone? How does he compare to Nansen? Any thoughts about being coached by Cougs?

JAR: [laughter] "You know, he's a little more mellow than coach Nansen. Coach Nansen is a fireball...he's crazy. But coach Genatone, he coaches pretty good. I mean he's really calm with it - he teaches step-by-step. It's good. I like him as a coach, and he's young; so that helps a lot. I look more on a young person teaching me. It's real cool. I like it.

LJ: Describe what it was like the first time you met coach Akey.

JAR: [Ratti chuckles] "It was real cool. Coach Akey, he's…I mean, you know coach E was. Coach E was real laid back. Coach Akey, he's like he's 21, 22 out there. He's running around along with us. He's doing all that…hail, snow, whatever. He's out there in shorts, out there running with us. I like coach Akey. He's a real fired-up coach. He's a defensive coach. He's got a defensive mentality, and I like that."

LJ: Now – what's your favorite music?

JAR: "What's MY favorite music? Gospel music. I love gospel music. Yeah, I love gospel music."

LJ: Well, thank you very much and good luck the rest of the way.

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