Emotional Ellison sheds tears at pick

Rhett Ellison was so surprised to be drafted – at all – that he broke down and cried when on the phone with the Vikings.

For a lot of rookie draft prospects, the draft weekend can be a frustrating and humbling process. Whether it's their own belief that they will get selected higher than they do or the people that surround them blowing smoke about their potential landing spot, many times the draft leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of hopeful rookies.

To say tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison doesn't fit into that category is a huge understatement. He had no delusions about being a mid-round draft pick. If anything, he erred on the side of caution in the opposite direction.

"I wasn't really expecting to get drafted," Ellison said. "I was pretty shocked and I'm still trying to calm everything down right now."

Asked to clarify if he didn't think he would get drafted in the fourth round, Ellison responded, "I was going for not getting drafted at all."

He was so convinced that he wasn't going to get drafted – at least not in the fourth round – that he and some of the family and friends invited over for the process were hanging out at a river near his California home. He was chilling out when his phone rang. Much to his surprise, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was on the other end of the line.

"They asked me if I was watching the TV, but I was out on the river at that point," Ellison said. "I said, ‘No, I'm not watching it' and they said, ‘Well, you're about to be a Minnesota Viking.' They put me on the phone with everybody, but I was crying pretty hard, so I don't know if they understood anything I was saying. But, I'll have to give them a call back later."

Asked what Spielman said to him, Ellison couldn't provide much of an answer, because he couldn't hear Spielman over his own sobbing.

"I was crying so hard, I didn't hear too much," Ellison said. "But they all said they were excited and that they would call me back later when I calmed down a little bit."

One of the reasons that Ellison was tempering his hopes was due to his father Riki Ellison, who played 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and Raiders. He warned him not to make unrealistic hopes and to have a solid backup plan in place.

"That's just the wisdom I get from my dad going through all this," Ellison said. "You prepare for another career. With football, you don't know if it's going to happen. It's amazing that it did happen. I can't believe it."

He said his father has been instrumental in keeping a level head and doing the hard work necessary to make the jump to the NFL. He said the biggest hurdle isn't simply the increased speed of the game, it's being able to read, react and think on the fly.

"He says it's a whole new level and that mental game of it is the biggest difference besides the speed," Ellison said. "We haven't looked too far ahead – just baby steps. That's what he's told me so far."

While he played primarily tight end in college, the transition to the NFL has many convinced he will compete for a spot as an H-back/fullback/tight end hybrid, much in the same vein that retired Vikings multi-tasker Jim Kleinsasser had with the organization. Ellison said he is a big fan of Kleinsasser, who played the game the way it should be played.

One of the other surprises for Ellison is that he will be reunited with Matt Kalil, the USC left tackle the Vikings made the third overall pick in the draft Thursday. While both will be heading off to a different part of the country they are unfamiliar with, Ellison said he looks forward to going through the process together as both begin their NFL careers.

"I can't wait to play with him again," Ellison said. "He is one of my favorite guys on the (USC) team. He is one of my best friends on the team. I really can't wait to play with him."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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