MESA, AZ — At a workshop in Mesa, you’ll find molds of some of the most famous feet in the sports world like Kurt Warner, Luis Zendejas, and Emmitt Smith.
As you walk in, you’ll see walls surrounded by dozens of molds made by Jesus “Don Chuy” Ortiz. It’s inevitable to pass by those molds and not notice Shaquille O’Neal’s enormous feet.
But behind every one of those molds, there’s a story.
“The first contact that I had was with Jason Kidd. He was out of an injury, a very tough ankle reconstruction surgery, he was in the process of moving to a new house and needed new orthotics. He was a very special guy,” said Ortiz.
He says some of the most amazing memories he has is meeting Arizona State University football legend Pat Tillman.
“It was a unique story. He acted like he was nobody, a very nice guy. I wish I had his feet. I left them at the other company I worked for. I miss those days.”
Don Chuy says he still remembers the day he first met Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“He was just a kid coming in.”
Ortiz is a certified pedorthist, and part of his job is to make orthotics for famous players. For the last 20 years, professional athletes have come to him looking for comfort.
“Shaquille O'Neal, Steve Nash.”
But his services aren’t just for all-stars.
“It’s always exciting to go meet the new kids, it’s pretty unique.”
He says this week’s NFL Draft reminds him of the many dreams he’s seen come true and how blessed he feels to be part of their journey.
Ortiz keeps everything, from logs of voice messages from players thanking him to autographs from players who remember him from their early years in sports.
“This guy is AC Caswell; he was non drafted. Glendale Community College invited him to training camp and didn't make the team, but later someone got hurt and they hired him.”
He says he never imagined -- as a kid in Chihuahua, Mexico, who used to make cowboy boots -- that he would become who he is today.
“You dream to be an athlete when you’re little, I never thought that I would be as close as I am, especially here in the United States.
For now, he says has no plans for retirement.
“For as long as I'm able to move my hands and sharpen my knife, I think I will keep on doing it.”
As much as he loves treating famous players, the autographs, and the memories, helping patients that nobody else will is what really fulfills him.
“That’s happiness for me. I’ve seen people with sandals duct-taped around their feet because that is all they can get to function with. When you could do something for them, it’s special.”
A message he hopes to share with young athletes is to not forget where you come from and to never lose humility.
“I get excited when I get a call no matter how many times I've seen this player. They treat you with a lot of respect like you’re better than they are, like you have accomplished more, and that’s unique.”