Get ready to hear the name Ezekiel Elliott a lot this fall.
The Ohio State junior running back is already considered one of the top players in all of college football but his road to success has been far from easy. It’s been filled with determination and tragedy and a dedicated support system that has forged him into one of the most fascinating athletes around.
Now, that story will be highlighted in an E60 spot titled, “The Rise of Ezekiel Elijah Elliott,” set to debut on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Here’s what you need to know about the star:
1. Elliott Is Already Considered a Heisman Favorite Going Into the 2015 Season
Get on the hype train now or get out of the way. Elliott, considered by many to be the top running back in the entire college game, is already a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy and the expectations for the junior are sky-high even before he takes his first offensive snap.
Still, he isn’t thinking about the awards. Instead, Elliot is only concerned with winning and, more specifically, winning second national title. He told TheOZone:
That’s really on the back burner. Our main priority is getting back to the Big Ten championship. We’re not really focused on those individual goals or awards. If we play for each other, play well together, all the other stuff will come with it.
Elliott is coming off wrist surgery this February meaning he’s spent the better part on the offseason rehabing and making sure that he can hold the ball with both hands. Although if he could do what he did last season with one hand, the sky might actually be the limit this year.
Elliott was named Big Ten preseason offensive player of the year this June, receiving 31 of 39 first-place votes to outpace Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook.
2. He Was a Three-Sport Star at John Burroughs High School in Missouri
Elliott has always been an athletic force, playing football, basketball and track in high school. Of course, his standout sport was football and during his senior season he racked up 3,061 all-purpose yards, including 2,0155 rushing yards, and 50 total touchdowns. He was named St. Louis Today’s overall male athlete of the year for his efforts that season.
He was also a dominant track and field athlete, using his speed as a sprinter and hurdler throughout high school. Elliott capped off his high school career with four state titles at the Missouri Class 3 state championships with victories in the 100-meter dash, 200, 110 high hurdles and 300 hurdles. He was named the Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year in Missouri.
3. Elliott’s Breakout College Moment Came With an 85-Yard Run in the Sugar Bowl
It took just over eight seconds for Elliott’s entire football career to change.
The then-sophomore running back recorded a Sugar Bowl and Ohio State bowl game-record 85-yard rushing touchdown to cap off a ridiculous 230-yard night in the Buckeyes’ 42-35 victory over No. 1 Alabama. He was named Sugar Bowl MVP and followed up with a game-record 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the College Football National Championship game. He was named MVP of that game as well.
By the end of the season Elliott racked up 1,878 rushing yards, the second-highest single-season total in Ohio State history, and became the first Buckeye to ever have three straight 200-yard rushing games.
4. His Father, Stacy, Was a Linebacker at Missouri
Athletics run in the Elliott family as the Ohio State standout’s father was also a dominant college football player in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Stacy Elliott was a linebacker at Missouri and was part of the team that lost to Colorado on the infamous fifth-down play in 1990, a moment he said, “It don’t get worse than that. I was on the tackle. He didn’t get it.”
Although Elliott was hoping to see his son eventually follow in his Mizzou shoes, he’s become one of the most vocal Ohio State supporters in the country, regularly taking to social media to post his thoughts and expectations for the team. Elliott has even joined Urban Meyer’s staff as “a helper,” someone who helps when the team brings in big-time recruits to give testimonials about the program and the recruiting process.
5. Elliott Faced Tragedy When His Ohio Teammate Kosta Karageorge Committed Suicide
While he was enjoying a breakout season on the gridiron this past fall, Eliott was dealing with tragedy off of it after his Ohio State teammate Kosta Karageorge committed suicide in November. The death was a jarring blow to the Buckeyes, including Eliott who had never dealt with anything like this before.
Eliott served as a pallbearer at Karrageorges funeral and said afterwards that he was playing last season for his teammate:
We definitely want to finish this season right for Kosta.We know he’s up there watching us. We know he’s up there cheering us on.
Although he never played in a game Karageorge’s death had a major impact on the entire college football world as it shined a light on brain injuries he may have sustained during three years as a college wrestler. Eliott also wore a white towel tucked into the front of his pants during games with the words “RIP Kosta” written in black marker.