High School Sports

Harris County football: Defensive tackle, Georgia Southern commit Jay Ellison has the positive attitude, strong work ethic coaches love

On the football field, Jay Ellison may be described as ferocious.

The Harris County defensive tackle racked up 86 tackles and 11½ sacks during the 2012 campaign, helping to lead the Tigers to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.

Talk to him off the field, and you might see a different person.

When Ellison speaks, he does so with a genuine charm that can win over even the most skeptical of listeners. He smiles, he looks you in the eye and, when giving a handshake, he grasps firmly and confidently.

And while his 6-foot-1, 280-pound frame is what catch recruiters' eyes, it's that engaging personality that wins them over.

That's why, on Wednesday, he'll be signing a letter of intent to play ball at Georgia Southern, saying "no" to a handful of other scholarship offers in the process.

"That's what college coaches look for," Harris County coach Tommy Parks said of Ellison's personality. "When they offer a scholarship, that's an investment with a lot of money tied to it. They want a quality person who gives them a chance to succeed."

The ability to give a team a chance to succeed is certainly rooted in physical ability, as well. But, Parks said, simply being a reliable guy that people can trust pays dividends in the locker room.

"He's got that great smile, a great attitude. He's always smiling," Parks said. "People want to be around people like Jay Ellison. It's a big key in the process. That's going to get him further in life than football talent, and I think that's what he prides himself on."

He's flexible, Parks said, which is key in handling the long and stressful recruiting process.

"There's a lot on your mind," Ellison said. "Lots of coaches calling after school."

Still, Ellison's focus never wavered. He knew it was his job to continue to do his work, complete his classes and perform well on the field. The scholarship would take care of itself.

"He's a guy that, if he tells you he's going to do something, he'll do it," Parks said. "In his four years, I can never remember him missing practice or being late for a meeting. He stands by his word.

"It's a pleasure for us as coaches, because he just played football. He didn't get caught up in who was recruiting him. Now, he's got a great opportunity to play at the next level."

The next level, for Jay, will be Georgia Southern. He committed to play there last Monday after a lot of consideration of other offers, including North Carolina and Ole Miss.

"I took my official visit down there a couple days before (committing) and had a good time," Ellison said. "I liked talking with the coaches, and it's not too far from home. It's far enough, too, so I can grow up on my own a little bit."

Another deciding factor was the opportunity for playing time. The defensive line became a position without a ton of depth during the offseason for Georgia Southern, and Ellison relishes the opportunity to earn playing time right away.

If he does, Parks has little doubt that Ellison can take advantage of the opportunity.

Ellison has impact speed and great leverage already, Parks noted, and with time in a collegiate weight training program can improve drastically.

"Once Jay gets down there and puts in full time at the weight room, I think you'll see somebody that can totally change," he said. "He's obviously a great athlete with a great motor. Once he gets coached up, I think you'll see great improvement."

That's what Ellison is looking for, both on and off the field. The attitude and the work ethic indicate a player who is willing to put in the hours to succeed.

He hasn't even signed his letter of intent yet, but Ellison is already looking forward to it.

"Oh, man, I'm excited," he said. "Excited to see what the college game is like. Right now, I just need to keep conditioning. Then we'll find out what's next when I get there. I'm just ready to get there."