CSU's Ellis has earned respectOctober 20, 2006
By David Shelton, Special to the Post & Courier
Few positions in the world of sports are the butt of more jokes than kickers in football. And, for the most part, the jokes are warranted.
Charleston Southern junior placekicker Nick Ellis has spent the last four years trying to change the perception that kickers are strange creatures of habit, with little or no personality, and who shy away from the heavy work that other members of the team put themselves through on a daily basis.
"When it's cold, the kickers are the one's standing by the heater, and when it's hot, the kickers are standing by the fans," said Ellis, a redshirt junior from Stockbridge, Ga. "We're always kinda standing around and watching, at least it seems that way.
"It's pretty hard for kickers to gain the respect of their teammates. I'm not out there blocking and tackling and getting all bruised and cut up. So I have always tried to make my teammates understand that I am there for them. When it's my time to contribute, I want them to be able to count on me, to trust me. Being a leader is important to me and I want them to view me as a teammate in every sense of the word."
Ellis has certainly proven he can contribute, and in a major way. He has connected on 16 field goals in just over two full seasons, needing eight more to tie the school career record. He hit 7 of 11 attempts last season, including a 46-yarder in a win over Gardner-Webb. He also has connected on the two biggest field goals in school history.
The first came last November in a double-overtime win over Coastal Carolina, when Ellis hit a 41-yarder in the first overtime with the Buccaneers down by three. CSU went on to win the game and a share of the Big South Conference championship.
The second big kick came in this year's season opener against The Citadel. Ellis' 26-yarder in overtime sent the Bucs to a 38-35 win, their first ever over the Bulldogs and their first win ever against a Southern Conference team.
"The kick against Coastal, in my mind, was the biggest kick of my life," said Ellis. "That one kick put the entire season in perspective for me. Starting back when (star receiver and best friend) Eddie Gadson died before the season and the winning streak at the end that put us in a position to win the championship. It all basically came down to that one kick. It was my biggest opportunity to help the team win a championship. If I had missed the kick, our season would have ended in disappointment."
CSU head coach Jay Mills says Ellis has more than earned the respect of his teammates, not only because of his ability to kick a football.
"He's a first-class young man and he possesses all of the intangible qualities that great leaders possess," said Mills. "Our team selected him to our team unity council, which is a show of great respect. He has definitely earned it. They see him working hard in the weight room and going through all of the offseason conditioning right there with them. On top of that, he had a 4.0 in the classroom last spring. Our players see how hard he works and how important he is to our team."
Ellis, named the Big South special teams player of the week for his two field goals and four extra points against Edward Waters, is proud of the fact that some of his kicks have aided in the growth of the Buccaneers program.
He compares the CSU program to his own high school program, Union Grove in Stockbridge. Union Grove went 0-10 in Ellis' sophomore year, improving to 2-8 as a junior and 10-3 as a senior.
The Bucs were 1-11 in Ellis' first year, though he missed all but two games with an injury. Now, CSU is 6-0 and riding an 11-game winning streak.
"I've been fortunate to be a part of two programs that started at the bottom and progressed to the top and it's something I am very proud of," said Ellis, who needs only 13 points to become CSU's career leader in scoring among kickers. "I hope that I can continue to contribute to the winning here. We all have our role and my role is to make kicks. As a kicker, the opportunities are few so I try to make the most of my chances. Make or miss though, I just want my teammates to know I will always do everything in my power to help them win."