South Carolina wideout Ellington to enter NFL draft
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)
The 5-foot-9 Ellington played point guard for the Gamecocks basketball team and was a receiver on the football squad the past three seasons. But it was on the football field where Ellington had the most success. He led South Carolina with 49 catches for 775 yards and eight touchdowns this year.
Ellington may have had his best game in the eight-ranked Gamecocks' 34-24 win over No. 19 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on Wednesday. He caught six passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, plus threw a 9-yard TD pass to South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.
South Carolina also announced that defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles or cornerback Victor Hampton gave up their senior seasons for the pros, although those three had previously said they were heading to the NFL early.
Ellington thanked football coach Steve Spurrier and both basketball coaches he played for with the Gamecocks, Darrin Horn and Frank Martin. Ellington had said Thursday night when the Gamecocks returned home from the bowl that he'd made up his mind, but wanted to talk with Martin before announcing his choice.
''It's been a great experience and I've been truly blessed,'' Ellington said.
Ellington, listed at 196 pounds, was also blessed with a body that rarely ran down.
He was a multi-sport standout at Berkeley High in Moncks Corner and quarterbacked his team to a state football title his senior season. But Ellington said he was coming to South Carolina to play basketball only for Horn's team.
That changed at the end of his first season when Ellington, the basketball team's top scorer, put on the pads after basketball and took part in summer drills. Ellington was part of the football team that fall, earning a spot on the all-SEC Freshman team, then returned to the court after South Carolina's bowl game.
That was Ellington's pattern the past two seasons, blending time on the court with football workouts.
Ellington said in November he expected that to continue this winter, too. But it was his play on the field, though, that pointed him to a football career. While Ellington didn't have a winning season with the basketball team - the Gamecocks changed coaches from Horn to Martin after the 2011-12 season - he helped Spurrier's group to three straight 11-2 seasons.
Ellington increased his reception and yardage totals each year. This fall, he became South Carolina's most reliable and clutch receiver. His fourth-down, 15-yard TD catch in overtime kept South Carolina tied at Missouri, a game with Gamecocks would win in two extra sessions, 27-24.
In the bowl game, Ellington made a juggling catch on fourth-and-7 for a first down before pulling in a 22-yard TD grab that put the Gamecoccks ahead for good, 20-17.
Martin had praised Ellington's basketball skills and had hoped to have him at practices to teach a Gamecocks roster featuring seven freshmen. Martin, though, was happy for Ellington.
''He's a winner and he is going to utilize this as taking the first step of the next chapter of his life,'' Martin said. ''All of us at South Carolina should be ecstatic that a young man his age has given so much of himself to represent this university athletically, socially and academically in a first class way.''