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No regrets

Posted May 8, 2012

Rookie free agent WR Kevin Elliott: NFL 'was definitely the dream'

His story could have been different, as is the case with so many NFL rookies.

With different decisions, Kevin Elliott could have been in many other places this past weekend, and no question his athletic career could have played out differently. But as he sees it, there’s an overriding reason his story is what it is.

Trying to make it in the NFL however he can, by whatever route necessary . . .

That’s the only story he ever really wanted.

“This definitely was the dream – ever since I was little,” Elliott said.

Elliott (6-feet-3, 213 pounds), a rookie wide receiver, spent this past weekend in the Jaguars’ rookie mini-camp as an undrafted free agent. As the team prepares for organized team activities next week at EverBank Field, he remains one of 11 receivers on the roster.

That means he is still living his dream, and if it’s the same dream of many NFL players, not as many could have done something else. Not as many gave that something else up.

Elliott did, and said he would again.

“No regrets at all – this is what I wanted to do,” he said.

From the time he can remember, football came above all else. That remained true even after a track and field career that began at Orlando (Fla.) Colonial High School as something minor became far bigger.

“Track was just something I did in high school to stay busy,” he said. “I ended up being pretty good.”

Actually, he started “pretty good” and got better, placing third in the high jump at the Class 4A state meet as a junior. He ranked sixth nationally as a senior, and his 6-11¾ jump that year set a school record that still stands. He won the state title as a senior in both the high jump and triple jump.

What started as pretty good had become good enough for offers from Clemson, Alabama, Washington, Arkansas …

Elliott said he had his track coach at Colonial ask one question of those college track coaches: “Can he play football?” All said no.

“I was like, ‘OK, that was the end of that,’” he said.

Instead, Elliott chose Florida A&M, the one school that did offer him a chance to do both, but after leading the Rattlers with 44 receptions for 544 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore, he gave up track to focus on football.

As he did, he focused on more than playing wide receiver.

Elliott began his career as many freshmen do, by playing special teams. But unlike a lot of players, he didn’t want to give it up as he emerged as a starter. He finished his career at FAMU with 173 receptions for 1,742 yards and 20 touchdowns, but also finished with 30 special teams tackles.

He might have had more, but by the end of his career, the FAMU coaches had succeeded in getting him off all special teams but kickoff returns.

“They were like, ‘Kickoffs are enough,’’’ he said. “They cut me off the other stuff and had me focused on kickoffs.’’

Why fight to stay on special teams? Why not?, he figured.

“I feel like I’ve got a defensive side to me, and that’s the way I get to show it,” he said. “I store a lot of anger. That’s the way I let my anger out on the field.”

And when he heard Jaguars coaches talk this weekend of special teams being a way for a rookie to make an impression?

“I just smiled,” he said.

Special teams is indeed the avenue for many NFL rookies, particularly undrafted free agents, and Elliott said he knows they likely will be his avenue, too. Still, he said his objective is to develop into an NFL-caliber receiver.

His first days were solid in that direction. He made several big receptions this past weekend, and Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey mentioned him publicly after Saturday’s and Sunday’s drills.

“Conditioning-wise, I feel very prepared,’’ Elliott said. “(Wide receivers) Coach (Jerry) Sullivan, he wants to mold us into the way he wants us to do things, so it’s a learning process right now. I’m basically using my raw talent, using what Coach Sullivan is teaching and I’ll thrive on that.”

Not that he believes the process will be too extended.

“I plan on being in the rotation as soon as possible, learning the plays and playbook and competing,” he said. “I love blocking downfield and helping my teammates out wherever I can. They know I can catch the ball, but they said it was the extra things on film that they saw that they really liked. With my competitiveness, I should be on the field pretty soon.”

How soon that is, or if it even is at all, remains to be seen. The road for an undrafted rookie is long, and difficult. Elliott said he knows this, and said this weekend, too, that however long the road, those decisions that got him here?  They couldn’t have been more right.

“It all paid off,” he said with a smile. “This is where I wanted to be.”

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