BY OBREY BROWN
For the Record Gazette
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Playing in Provo might give Banning High product a national spotlight … Wants to play CB, but he’s got other ambitions … All-around threat who scored 22 TDs in 2016 a various ways … BYU had been on Ellison since high school.
Clearing the Honor Code was the first step in Eric Ellison’s recruitment procedure to play football at Brigham Young University beginning next fall.
It was nothing, he said.
“That,” he said, referring to the campus’ regulations that its students not get involved with alcohol, tobacco or drug substances, among other factors, “didn’t really affect me.”
Ellison, who will play cornerback, has major ambitions beyond completing his academic and athletic career at the Provo, Utah campus. It’s probably not too early to talk about the National Football League, either.
“I want to play on both sides of the ball,” said Ellingson, who spent his 2016 junior season at Banning High School rushing for 10 touchdowns, catching another eight touchdown passes, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, another punt return for a touchdown, plus a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown against San Bernardino Pacific.
“I love offense more,” he said. “I like the ball in my hand.”
It’s the best way he can think that might help BYU, which has been strapped for scoring touchdowns in all phases of the game the past season or two under head coach Kilani Sitake.
“They have me at corner,” he said. “I feel I’m better on offense.”
Ellison, a junior college signee out of nearby Mt. San Jacinto, got a late start this past season. This past summer, he had walked on at the University of Utah — about an hour, or so, down Interstate 15 from BYU’s Provo campus — but he was unable to handle the cost factor of being a non-scholarship player.
“The first two games of the season (at MSJC),” he said, “I was still competing for spots on the field.”
The 5-11, 170-pounder had been a BYU recruit since his high school days. He’s an electrifying performer who showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman at MSJC — 21 receptions (459 yards), 4 touchdowns, 300 combined return yards in punt and kick returns, along with some play in the secondary.
Ellison’s connection to BYU? It wasn’t that his MSJ coach, Casey Mazzotta, played there before launching his coaching career. That is just a mere coincidence.
During his recruiting visits at Provo, Ellison bowled and went snow-mobiling with host players. It was during BYU’s finals week, so the “party” level was held to a minimum.
“The visit was pretty chill,” said Ellison, who had been recruited by Washington State, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Northern Arizona and Idaho State, which is where his cousin, James Madison, also from Banning, just concluded his collegiate career.
BYU, noted Ellison, “is independent (not part of a conference), which means I get to show my skills to everyone.”
This past season, BYU played Arizona, Univ. Massachusetts, beating sixth-ranked Wisconsin, losing to 11th-ranked Washington, plus the perennial Holy War game against Utah, ranked No. 17 when the two teams collided last fall.
BYU, which claimed a national championship under legendary coach Lavell Edwards in 1984, took a 6-6 record into last weekend’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Western Michigan in Boise. The Cougars play home games at 63,000-seat Lavell Edwards Stadium.
“I qualified (academically) out of high school,” said Ellison, noting that his academic workload played a significant role in attaining his collegiate dream. “The key is to stay focused on that.”
As for BYU’s Honor Code, there will be no problem for Ellison, who said Kahlil Bell, a transfer from BYU to Idaho State, prepared him for the Provo-based school’s recruiting process.
It’s a no-drug, no-smoking, no-alcohol environment at BYU, living a chaste and honest life, plus observing dress and appearance standards, among other requirements, that are part of that code.
That, Ellison said, “is just how I am.”