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Katzian sparks Pios resurgence

by: COURTESY  - Logan Katzian switched from wide receiver to cornerback during his career at Lewis & Clark.Logan Kotzian has seen — and done — a lot in his three-plus years at Lewis & Clark College.

He’s played receiver, cornerback and kick returner for the Pioneers.

He at first saw more losses than wins, and, lately, more wins than losses.

He’s seen a variety of people and classes, and a steady increase in followers among his fellow students.

And he’s not done yet.

The former Century High star is one of the key players on an improved L&C football team that went 7-2 last season — starting a Cinderella-like 7-0 — and is off to a 2-0 start this year going into a 1 p.m. Saturday home game with 3-0 Macalester of St. Paul, Minn.

“He’s about as pure and natural a corner as there is,” Lewis & Clark coach Chris Sulages says.

Kotzian, one of nine seniors starting on defense for the 2012 Pioneers, began his college career on the other side of the ball. He caught nine passes on a 2-7 team as a freshman in 2009. He also scored four touchdowns, one on a 98-yard kickoff return, and led the Pioneers in punt returns.

The NCAA Division III Pios had posted a 1-8 record in 2008, after going a combined 0-22 the previous three seasons. The program was on the ropes after games were canceled following Lewis & Clark’s 0-4 start and with a seriously depleted roster in 2005.

But Sulages took over, got support from the administration and others, and set to work. He had to add numbers and talent.

Kotzian was part of the upgrade, and became part of the revival. And the Pios wasted no time making use of his athletic ability and speed — traits he had showed a few months earlier in winning Class 5A state titles in the 100 and 200 meters, with meet-record times of 10.90 and 22.04 seconds.

“I remember watching him in high school and seeing the speed and athletic ability he had. Those things were obvious,” Sulages says.

Sulages, now is in his seventh year as the Pios’ head coach and 10th year with the program, had a bit of a pipeline at Century. A former Jaguar, Brandis Piper, had played football for him at L&C, and the coach’s wife was a teacher at the high school.

“We knew Logan would play somewhere for us,” Sulages says.

After one season, though, Kotzian switched sides at the coaches’ request. He moved almost exclusively to cornerback.

“Personally,” says L&C defensive coordinator Tim Jacobs, “I was really excited, because we’d seen glimpses of what he could do. We were very, very thin at cornerback, so I was definitely excited.”

The speed and athletic ability Kotzian had been using on offense translated well to defense.

“The biggest thing he brings is that raw athleticism,” Jacobs says. “He has the ability to burst and break on balls that a lot of corners at the small-college level might not be able to do.”

Last year, as Lewis & Clark beat everyone in the Northwest Conference except for potent Willamette and perennial national power Linfield, Kotzian contributed with 39 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, one sack and one blocked kick in seven games. A broken toe kept him out of L&C’s final two games, losses to Willamette and Linfield.

“He’s been a big part of our improvement during the time he’s been here,” Jacobs says.

Even though, at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, he’s not overly big.

“He’s not big, but he’s not small, either,” Sulages says.

And he’s plenty big for his roles with the Pioneers.

“The techniques and being in the right position, especially for a cornerback, are far more important than being the biggest guy,” Jacobs says. “If you’re in position to make a play on the ball … that’s the key.”

Kotzian didn’t even play football until he was about midway through his time at Century.

“My mom didn’t want me to play, because she was afraid I’d get hurt,” he says.

Eventually, “I think she just kind of accepted it,” says Kotzian.

Kotzian’s father, Tim Upshaw, was a linebacker for Portland State from 1987-90.

“I just kind of had instincts for the game that allowed me to do things on the field,” Kotzian says.

He helped the Jaguars reach the 5A quarterfinals in 2008. There, they ran into eventual state champion West Albany and lost 41-19 to a juggernaut that went on to finish 14-0.

Kotzian says his favorite sport at Century, though, probably was basketball. He was a starting guard who helped guide the Jaguars to the 5A final in 2009. Century lost 60-44 to powerful Jefferson, which featured forward Terrence Jones, the future NCAA champion at Kentucky and NBA first-round draft pick.

Then came the state track meet at Hayward Field his senior year.

“That was a big highlight of my career,” he says.

Lewis & Clark was on him in recruiting all the way, and the player known as “Logie Bear” says he hasn’t regretted his decision to attend the liberal arts college at Palatine Hill in Southwest Portland.

“It’s a really nice campus, and there are a lot of interesting people,” he says.

He’s a psychology major, focusing on sports psychology.

“He does look at things from a bit of a deeper perspective,” Jacobs says.

Kotzian still returns kicks for the Pioneers, and they always could sneak him back onto the field when they have the ball. Opponents have to be cognizant of No. 5’s whereabouts.

“I think I’m capable of playing on both sides of the ball,” he says.

The coaches wish they had more guys like him.

“He’s accountable,” Sulages says, “always on time, locked in, wants to be successful, wants to win.”

“He’s developed both in the classroom and on the field,” Jacobs says. “He’s done what you’re supposed to do in college — he’s grown as a total person.”



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