After tallying 105 tackles, two interceptions, seven tackles for loss and four sacks on the defensive side of the ball in Ohio's rugged Division 3 level, Ontko saw his stock starting to soar, getting legitimate interest from Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State, Michigan and North Carolina.
The answer he got from everyone, including the Buckeyes, was virtually the same. ‘You're good, but you need to be an inch or two taller.' Little did they know that Ontko's 5-foot-11 exterior is one of his two big advantages he possesses on the football field.
"I've used my height to my advantage, honestly, because going against a 6-foot-7 lineman they can't get as low as I can get," Ontko said. "It's been a big advantage for me."
The other advantage is Ontko's speed, one of the first thing Wisconsin and Ohio recruiter Joe Rudolph first noticed. Wisconsin started watching Ontko at the end of his sophomore year when he was the starting running back (racking up over 1,000 yards as a tailback), but the offer came during UW's summer camp when Ontko ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, the fastest recorded at UW in the last three years.
"I've started training my sophomore year in high school and it was all speed with 40-yard dash and the shuttle," Ontko said. "All we did was speed when I trained."
Having trained at Raw Talent Sports in Cleveland, Ontko's first 40-yard dash time was a 4.8. When he left, his best time was a 4.36 dash. Continuing to train, Ontko hopes to get his 40 time under 4.3 by the time he hits the field.
"I've tried to get as fast as I can get, and I still got to get a little bit faster," Ontko said. "I just try to use all that to my advantage. I think I have actually gotten faster since high school ended because I've been training real hard since we got here."
Ontko's persona and style are tailor made for Strength Coach Ben Herbert. Having already added 10 pounds since coming from Walsh Jesuit High, Ontko is hoping to continue to build his strength during his year on the sideline.
"I am glad I am redshirting because I feel this year I can make drastic improvements with my speed and my strength," Ontko said. "I want to learn more about the game, get the playbook down and really build on what I learned during that short period of camp. My whole game needs to catch up, and I think that will come with time."
Just like his strength will grow, so will the chip on the shoulder. Acknowledged the disappointment of not being better recruited, Ontko has already circled certain games on his calendar to show schools what they passed up on.
"I am glad that I am here and I came here to play ball," Ontko said. "I am going to do what I do best. I am a tough, physical player. I am going to go as hard as I can go on every play. I am a team player and I am not going to let this team down."