Fifteen different running backs had their name called before Andre Ellington. It was only six months ago and it still fuels the rookie.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, their sixth-round pick (No. 187 overall) is already paying off.
“It’s just like a secret motivation that I have for myself to think about all the teams that passed me up,” Ellington told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “I want to make plays and dominate in each game.”
That’s why Ellington’s 154-yard performance against the Falcons in Week 8 was extra special. Now he’s earned himself a larger role in the Cardinals offense, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
“I accept the challenge,” Ellington said. “I’m just going to go out there and do what I do. Handle business and make plays.”
Arians believes that Ellington adds a different dimension to the offense. He proved it with his 80-yard touchdown run. Ellington still believes that Rashard Mendenhall, who is dealing with a toe injury, is the lead runner, while he’ll be used in space and as the change-of-pace back.
“I’m willing to try, but I understand that [Rashard] Mendenhall is the bellcow of our offense, so he’s going to be our starter,” Ellington said. “Just whenever coach puts me out there in different positions, I’m going to make a play.”
Arians also compared Ellington to New Orleans running back Darren Sproles.
At 5-foot-9, 199 pounds, Ellington is built a bit more stout than Sproles. They each are a big play waiting to happen when the ball is in their hands.
“I can see why [Arians] said that,” Ellington said. “Our skillsets are a lot similar. He’s a smaller guy, not the biggest. He makes the biggest impact in running the ball and I feel like I can do the same. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and downfield as well.”
The Cardinals are on the bye this week. Ellington is using the free time to return to South Carolina. Ellington, who starred at Clemson for four seasons, is heading home to watch South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington, his younger cousin, play for the first time in person.
“I told him, ‘I’m not coming home to not watch you not make plays,’” Ellington said.
Their bond is rare. They grew up together. They’re only a year apart, but the Cardinals’ running back considers him a younger brother.
“I felt like I needed to make an example for him,” he said. “Just by him watching me grow up and become a man, he started to study that and become a man himself. It’s just good to see me make an impact in someone’s life like that.”
Bruce Ellington is South Carolina’s starting point guard on the basketball team and the school’s leading receiver on the football team.
Ellington remembers the two — before the days of Pop Warner — would watch football on Saturdays. Then they’d go out to the front yard and mimic what their favorite players on TV were doing.
“He’d be on defense sometimes and I’d go out on offense and we’d go after each other,” Ellington said.
Those were the days before Ellington even dreamed of making runs like the one he did under the bright lights of University of Phoenix Stadium last Sunday.
Ellington is the latest piece of evidence that you don’t have to select a running back in the first few rounds to find a productive one. He was dinged in the draft process because he was undersized and lacked some power as an inside back. Well, it looks like the Cardinals found themselves a good one.
“There’s a lot of talented guys,” Ellington said. “Teams are always looking for the guys that fit their system. I think that I fit Bruce Arians’ mindset and [being] that type of player in his offense.”