Ezekiel Elliott was a relative unknown heading into 2012.
Last season, the 6-foot, 200-pound running back rushed for 1,802 yards and 34 touchdowns on 211 carries (8.5 yards per carry) and scored 42 total touchdowns while leading John Burroughs (St. Louis) to a Class 3 state runner-up finish.
Yet, Elliott was barely a blip on the national radar. A big reason why is that Elliott had never attended a national combine or camp, choosing instead to focus on his other passion during the offseason — track.
But it all started to change this spring when Elliott began to receive serious football interest from big-time college programs. And on April 1, he committed to Ohio State over Missouri, where his dad played football and his mom ran track, and Notre Dame.
The No. 255 recruit in the ESPN 300, Elliott followed his commitment by attending his first major football camp, the Nike Football Training Camp in Champaign, Ill. There, Elliott was named running back MVP and earned invitations to both The Opening and Champion Gridiron Kings.
So what’s this Buckeyes commit got planned for the rest of the summer? Get Familiar with Ezekiel Elliott.
ESPNHS: Why did you never attend a football camp before this spring?
Elliott: It’s something I didn’t think was very important. I could have went to some if I wasn’t getting the looks I was getting. Also, I’m a track guy, so I’m competing at meets every weekend. I went to Champaign because of The Opening. I had seen it on TV and I was hearing about it from the other recruits. And then I heard from all the Ohio State guys who were going. It’s a great chance to go out and compete. I’m not necessarily ranked among the top guys in the country. It’s a great way to improve my ranking, compete and have fun.
ESPNHS: What did it feel like when you received The Opening invite?
Elliott: It felt great. Last summer, I wasn’t on anybody’s radar. To think in a year’s time that I’d be invited to The Opening and Gridiron Kings is incredible. It just shows that hard work pays off.
ESPNHS: You ended up missing most of your sophomore year with a broken collarbone. How tough was that to deal with?
Elliott: I broke my collarbone during the fourth game of my sophomore year. I had eight touchdowns at that point. It was tough to have to watch. My guys did great and made it to the state championship. But it was tough not being able to be physically part of the games.
ESPNHS: Your team lost in the state final for the second straight year last fall. How much has that motivated you and your teammates this offseason?
Elliott: It was very heartbreaking. It’s something I still think about every day. Now we know what it takes to get there and not get what we want. We just have to work hard, stay humble and stay motivated.
ESPNHS: You’re also a track star. Are you planning on running track at Ohio State and why do you love running so much?
Elliott: Running track has been in the conversation. I’m going to try it my freshman year and see how it goes. I just love to compete. Track helps me stay in shape, and being a hurdler helps my flexibility and my hips. I just can’t sit out a season. I also play basketball during the winter. I’ve been doing this since I was 7. I also run summer track and two-a-days start for football on Aug. 6. It just doesn’t feel right for me not to be physically active.
ESPNHS: What led you to pick Ohio State on April Fool’s Day?
Elliott: Nobody thought I was serious. I narrowed it down to three schools — Ohio State, Mizzou and Notre Dame. I visited each school twice. After I came back from the second visit at Ohio State, I sat down with my parents. It was tough. We wanted to wait it out, but it became overwhelming. When we came back from Ohio State, we talked about it and I woke up (the next day) and committed to Ohio State. I called coach (Urban) Meyer and told him I wanted to be a Buckeye. It felt great.
ESPNHS: How much did your parents help you through the process?
Elliott: I wouldn’t be where I am without my mom. She drives me to every practice and every game. My dad has been there for me, too. My dad played football at Missouri and my mom ran track at Missouri, but they supported me in every decision I made. They both love Ohio State. They’ll still be rooting me on. I credit everything I’ve accomplished to them. It’s great to have two parents who support you. I’m grateful for everything they’ve done.
School: John Burroughs (St. Louis)
Position: Running back
College: Ohio State
TV Show: “Criminal Minds”
Movie: “Air Bud”
Musical Artist: J. Cole
Athlete: Lolo Jones
Pro Team: Miami Heat
School Subject: Physics
Food: Fried chicken