Elliott Reflects On Recruiting Process

Though Ezekiel Elliott was one of the first players to verbally commit to Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class, the four-star running back went through a tough week in the days leading into National Signing Day. Elliott reflects on the recruiting process inside.

Urban Meyer's handpicked running back was one of the first prospects to commit to Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class, an early success for the head coach that has long professed his deep desire to stack the his roster with dynamic offensive talents at the skill positions.

Meyer found the one who could do it all in Ezekiel Elliott, a multi-purpose back from St. Louis John Burroughs School that's just as capable running the ball off tackle as he is receiving a pass after running a route out of the slot.

It was a match made in heaven. Still molding his roster in only his second year as OSU's head coach, Meyer needed a running back like Elliott to help facilitate the construction of an offense that's still a work in progress. And Elliott was looking for a program that could most appropriately use his versatile skill-sets.

"But what people didn't know is how much influence Missouri had on Ezekiel until the very end of his recruiting process," the running back's father, Stacy Elliott, told BSB. "We as parents didn't even know."

It was easy for those who follow Meyer – a coach with a staunch reputation of being a closer on the recruiting trail – to forget how Missouri could have a strong influence on Elliott even after he joined the Buckeyes recruiting class and became a consistent fixture on the sidelines for Ohio State's home games.

But the reasons the Tigers stayed alive in Elliott's recruitment until the very end are significant, even if forgotten. Missouri is deep rooted in the Elliott household. His father was an outside linebacker for the Tigers from 1989-92, and his mother, Dawn, was an accomplished member of the track team.

And Missouri had a reasonable sales pitch – to keep the state's top football prospect at home to become the next local hero in the same ilk as former Tigers Jeremy Maclin and Blaine Gabbert, and, of course, for Elliott to follow a his father's footsteps.

"It's hard and I don't think people understand," Elliott told BSB. "I have been a Mizzou fan since I was born. When I dreamed of playing college football, it wasn't at any other college but Mizzou. They have always been there."

So it becomes easier to understand why Elliott – one of the most important pieces of OSU's recruiting class – could take an official visit to Missouri only weeks before National Signing Day, even if it left Meyer on edge as he hoped he'd be able to hold onto his chosen gem of a running back.

Some took it as a sign of disrespect for a player who has already issued a verbal commitment, others speculated whether Elliott was uneasy about other talents at his position also joining Ohio State's recruiting class.

"It was none of that," Stacy said. "How often is the No. 1 player in the state recruited by the hometown school that his father also played for? That's a lot to think about there and you have to realize that Ezekiel was only 16 when he made his commitment."

The visit was more than just giving the home-state school a final shot. It was about finally becoming thoroughly familiar with what Missouri had to offer, one last investigation of the program he grew up loving and the one his parents still do.

But Elliott – who Scout.com ranks as the No. 9 running back in the 2013 class – didn't do it for his parents.

"I went to Mizzou with an open mind," Elliott said. "I was going to give them one last shot, a fair shot. I went there thinking that if they showed me what I needed to be shown that would be my school. I did that for me, to be sure about my decision.

"There was never any pressure from my parents to go to Mizzou. We all decided that when we went into the process that we'd do it with an open mind. We didn't have any ties to any school. When I finally made my decision, I put that out of the picture and just did what was best for me."

It was the first decision Elliott made without consulting his parents, but it was a big one. When the final week leading into National Signing Day had ended and it was time for him to fax in his national letter of intent, he knew he wanted to be a Buckeye.

And having taken that visit to Missouri, Elliott now knows more than ever that he made the right decision for himself. Most importantly, he said it was more fulfilling having deeply explored all of his options before making the first real decision of his life without his parents.

"I knew for sure the night before singing day," Elliott said. "It was stressful, but as athletes that's kind of what you live for and play for. It is something you're used to. It may seem like a stress to a normal person, but to an athlete, it is just part of the game. And Ohio State was the right place for me."

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