Big-Time Upside

Growing up in Jamaica, Kendrick Ellis always pictured himself as a soccer player. In fact, while living there for the first 11 years of his life, that's what he knew when it came to athletics.

"I had watched football on TV but I always played soccer," Ellis said. "All the running I did at an early age has really helped me stay in shape over the years. Now that I'm 318 pounds, I feel like I have a big advantage when it comes to running over a lot of the other big kids."

Ellis and his family moved to the United States approximately six years ago. They spent two years in Miami, two in Greenacres, and now have spent the past two residing in West Palm Beach. Fortunately for the John I. Leonard coaches, Ellis decided to give football a try.

"I started playing football when I first moved here but since I was pretty big already, they said I was too big to play pee wee ball," he said. "When I first started I thought I would end up being a kicker because of my background in soccer. Then when I started practicing and training with people, I was able to out run most of them and I was even bigger than most of them. That's when I started playing fullback. I was sorta on the team but I wasn't. I just wasn't able to play in the games because I was overweight."

Ellis began his career as a freshman and he made an immediate presence. Three seasons later, Ellis has emerged as one of the state's top prospects at his position. It was a highly impressive junior season that put him on the recruiting radar.

"I didn't work out a lick last year before the season," he said. "We were in between coaches and I just didn't do it. It was a mistake. I just went off my size and what I had naturally."

Fortunately for Ellis, that's a lot -- much more than most kids. He finished the season with 72 tackles, 16 for loss, and 14 quarterback sacks in just nine games. He was a first team All-County selection and was on the All-State lists.

"I think people underestimated me most of the year," he said. "Maybe it was because of my size, maybe they didn't think I could run or chase people down. I proved them wrong."

Ellis finally experienced what it's like being a big time player in the last game of the season.

"We played Ely in the playoffs and they crushed us," he said. "We weren't able to keep up with their speed. They were double teaming me and running everything outside away from me and Ken (Chastine, a fellow DT prospect). It was pretty frustrating because no matter what I did, the play was always away from me. Ely came in with a good plan and with their speed, they executed really well."

Ellis plans on being a new man on the field this fall. His work ethic the last few months is only the beginning.

"I'm training really hard now," he said. "I'm really hitting the weight room hard. I've already gained about 13 pounds since the end of last season. I'm 6-5 and 318 now. I'm going to be a lot quicker and much, much, much stronger. I'm just going to give it my best shot -- what's the worst that can happen when you do that? I'll be praying for good things to happen."

Ellis, who carries a 2.2 core GPA and scored an 860 on the SAT ("That was my first time and I didn't study and forgot to take a calculator. I think by studying some and taking a calculator next time I should be able to score a lot higher."), should project as a qualifier.

The talented defensive lineman, whose younger brother still lives in Miami, is unaware of any early scholarship offers and is keeping his options open when it comes to his college choices.

"It's really a wide range of them right now," he said. "I'm getting letters and stuff from a bunch of schools, more than I can even keep up with. I have no idea what might happen. I'm just going to pray about it. You got Urban Meyer coming in at Florida with Doc Holliday. They're probably going to be very successful. You got the legendary Bobby Bowden at Florida State and then there's Miami. That's three real good ones to start with right there."

There have been rumblings going around that Ellis is a Canes fan. He talked about that.

"I don't really even have a favorite team," he said. "I really don't know a whole lot about the process yet. I do know that Miami's an awesome program. They're always one of the best teams and they have good coaches who know how to prepare their players. Miami will be one of many choices. I just have to do what's right academically and financially for me and my family."

Having lived in Miami for a couple years, Ellis said he never had a chance to watch the Hurricanes live in the Orange Bowl.

"I lived closer to the Dolphins stadium so I didn't get too many chances to go," he said.

Canes Time Top Stories