Thursday, June 28, 2012
Ezekiel Elliott never satisfied
By Damon Sayles
ST. LOUIS -- When success is the topic of discussion, ESPN 300 running back Ezekiel Elliott (St. Louis/John Burroughs) considers it a black hole of sorts.
With all of the accolades the four-star athlete has on his résumé -- Ohio State commitment, Gridiron Kings 7-on-7 invite, Nike Football Training Camp running backs MVP at Champaign, Ill. -- nothing seems to be good enough to satisfy him. Even when he earned his invitation to The Opening earlier this month, it was enough to garner a smile but nowhere near enough to make him feel accomplished.
For Elliott, the uncanny state of never being satisfied fuels him unlike many other athletes. As he prepares for The Opening, which takes place July 5-8 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the future Buckeye will treat the prestigious training and competition event similarly to how he treats all other events he's a part of.
"It's my chance to show what I can do," Elliott said. "No one really thought I'd be recruited coming out of a small school, and I was able to prove them wrong. I've worked for everything I've gotten. Nothing's been handed to me."
His work at John Burroughs serves as proof of his ridiculous work ethic on the field. The 6-foot, 205-pound back rushed for 1,802 yards and 34 touchdowns and also caught 23 passes for 401 yards and six touchdowns during the 2011 season. The past two seasons, he's led his team to the Missouri Class 3 state championship game. Losing both title games eerily similar -- in the final seconds of the fourth quarter -- gives him astronomical goals for his final high school season in 2012.
Give partial credit for Elliott's competitive nature to his parents. His father, Stacy, was a linebacker for Missouri in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His mother, Dawn, was a heptathlete at Missouri.
"He's definitely a competitor," Dawn said. "He's never really satisfied with any results. You could tell that back when he was a little guy."
Elliott is just as competitive in other sports. Along with being a two-way player for the John Burroughs football team, he's a combo-guard on the basketball team, as well as a track and field standout. He won the 110-meter hurdles and placed second in the 300 hurdles at the Missouri Class 3 state meet as a sophomore. He finished second in the 110 hurdles, second in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the 100 at state this past season.
The Opening, which will have 150 of the nation's best in attendance, gives Elliott another chance to show he belongs. It gives him the opportunity to show why he had nearly offered by 20 programs, including Missouri, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arkansas and Georgia.
It also gives him a chance to show exactly why Ohio State wanted him. Opponents have come to respect Elliott for his healthy combination of speed, power and field vision. He's good enough to showcase one of those traits when necessary or combine all three to make a play.
"I like to use the whole field and take what the defense gives me," Elliott said. "I use a lot of cutbacks. I'll use some speed, I'll use some power. I'm not just one-dimensional."
Elliott defined playing at Ohio State as "a dream come true." He had a chance to visit the campus during the Buckeyes' spring game and was impressed that despite the cold, rainy weather that day, roughly 81,000 people still showed up to support the team.
Meeting coach Urban Meyer for the first time, Elliott said, was something he'll never forget.
"He is a very humble person," Elliott said. "If you were sitting in the room and hadn't seen him on TV, you wouldn't know him. He's a winning coach who's about business.
"I think the best thing is that he lets you know that his plan is to win national championships."
Elliott's long-term focus stays on winning a state title, but for four days, his short-term goal is to be the player most talked about at The Opening. Earning the running backs MVP accolade at the NFTC in Champaign over highly touted USC commit Ty Isaac (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) was enough to make Elliott feel like he's well on his way to achieving all of his ultimate goals.
Ask him now and he'll be the first to admit he's still got a long way to go.
"He knows what he wants," Dawn said, "and he's not going to stop until he gets it."