After Wednesday's situational scrimmage in Death Valley, the redshirt junior running back lit up when asked about the role he expects to occupy this fall.
But reality soon set in.
"I'm just excited to be out here at this camp with my teammates," he said. "I missed those guys in the spring. I saw the way the way they worked to get better, especially with this new system, offensively. I'm just proud to be back out here with them at work."
How soon we forget about the selfless nature of Ellington, who's carried 186 times for 1,177 and 14 touchdowns over his first two seasons at Clemson.
As usual, it really should come as no surprise.
Ellington cut his teeth with a redshirt while watching Thunder [James Davis] and Lightning [C.J. Spiller] split carries one last time in 2008.
Ellington is the same guy who, a year later, happily shared backup carries with Jamie Harper, his "partner in crime," when the Thunder had subsided and only Lightning remained.
Even as the anointed No. 1, Ellington would sub himself out of games in 2010, even when he wasn't in need of a spell, but to keep Harper in the flow of the game.
There's no avoiding it now. Ellington is the man, the feature-back in an offense that's under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
"I just look at it as motivation, to keep me striving to be my best," Ellington said of his role.
"I want to be that guy that they expect me to be. On Sept. 3, I'll be ready to go."
Ellington, who insisted that his once injured toe is now 100 percent, said he feels fine, physically. There was another bump in the road, though.
"I had to get over the fear of my injury," he said. "I'm far over that now. I'm just getting back into shape, the shape I want to be for this season."
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back admitted that he still has to work his way back into "football shape."
"Offseason work is one start of work," Ellington said. "It's a whole lot different than going through football plays, hustling up and down the field, getting tackled and you have to come back to the line of scrimmage and get the play. It's just a different type of shape you have to be in."
His first chance to prove it is against Troy, on Sept. 3.
And here's to believing Clemson fans will welcome that sight with open arms.
Ellington takes the next step
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