Ellison Rhett Ellison isn't afraid to do the grunt work on the football field. In fact, he doesn't seem to care what type of role he has in his rookie season with the Vikings, so long as he has a useful function.
His recurring motto during a recent interview: Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'll do that.
It's a similar credo that Jim Kleinsasser took 13 years ago as a Vikings rookie. But, then, there appears to be a number of similarities between the now-retired Kleinsasser and the Ellison, a fourth-round draft choice from USC, starting with the number on their jerseys.
"I watched him from high school on, when I started playing football, and I've had 40 since high school, college and then now. He's one of those players that I really respected," Ellison said of Kleinsasser.
"He's just old-school. Just tough, will get his nose dirty. Doing all that – taking the D-end on one-on-one and stuff like that, motioning into the backfield, spilling on the linebackers – so doing all the dirty work."
Is that the role he envisions for himself? Ask him and the answer is, essentially: If that's what the coaches want.
Apparently, it is. Ellison spent time at rookie minicamp at tight end and some fullback. During the early days of Kleinsasser's career, the coaching staffs couldn't decide if he was a tight end or fullback. Eventually, they decided he was both, even if he was a tight end on the roster.
The same may be true with Ellison.
"Rhett is a great character guy, extremely bright, can play multiple positions," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. "We lost (Visanthe Shiancoe) and we lost Kleinsasser so we're trying to create as much competition at that third tight end spot as possible. But visiting with Rhett at the Combine, I was personally at his pro day, he does a lot of things for an offense just because of his versatility and his intelligence to do a lot of different things. So he can give you some of the same things we saw in Kleinsasser."
Ellison said the Vikings were testing him at a number of positions at rookie minicamp and seeing if he could learn quickly.
"It's been pretty tough, but a lot of the concepts – the pictures look the same as the USC offense, but it's just different words. It's kind of like learning a foreign language," he said after the first day of camp.
At USC, Ellison recorded 21 and 22 catches in his junior and senior seasons, respectively. He admitted he considers himself more of a blocking tight end, but the Vikings believe one of his biggest assets is his versatility.
While Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson will see big roles as the pass-catching duo from Notre Dame, Ellison is expected to win the job as the third tight end and could provide the "dirty work" that Kleinsasser executed so well for more than a decade.
For now, it all about repetitions in the offense and following what the coaches want to see him improve upon.
"You've just got to know everything. You can't make mental mistakes. You've got to get a lot faster, bigger, stronger – everything," he said.
The thrill of being drafted is dissipating for Ellison, who broke down and cried when the Vikings informed him that he had been selected in the fourth round – "the celebration is over; now it's work time," he said – but he still has a great appreciation for the position he is in.
"It's unbelievable. It's a dream come true," he said. "I get to do what I love every day. I'm just the luckiest guy in the world right now."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Ellison carving out versatile role
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