Yesterday, New York Jets defensive lineman, and former 3rd round pick, Kenrick Ellis pleaded guilty to assault and battery charges that have been stemming from a 2010 incident at Ellis’s former place of education, Hampton University. According to his attorney, Ellis will likely serve 45 days in a Virginia prison beginning on June 15th of this year, which will cause him to miss the opening days of training camp. Although this legal issue is unfortunately going to cost him some training and practice time, the resolution to this case could be just what Ellis needs to finally propel his NFL career and fulfill his vast potential.
Coming out of John I. Leonard High School in Lake Worth, Florida, Ellis was regarded as a 4 star prospect, according to scout.com, and was widely considered to be the best defensive tackle prospect from the Lake Worth area since Patriots All-Pro Vince Wilfork. In his final two seasons in high school, Ellis tallied 139 tackles and 24 sacks, while earning scholarship offers from Rutgers, Tennessee, South Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State, and North Carolina.
After finally deciding to become a member of the Gamecocks, Ellis redshirted his freshman season, before recording 11 tackles the following year. With a promising collegiate career seeming inevitable, Ellis was unfortunately reprimanded for repeated violations of both university and team policies, and transferred to Hampton University in Virginia. In his final two seasons as a Pirate, Ellis recorded an amazing 30 tackles for loss, which, considering his immense size (6’5” 346 lbs) is tremendous.
With Ellis having the legal case lingering over him heading into the NFL Draft, he dropped to the 3rd round, despite his great potential, where he was eventually selected by the Jets with the 94th overall pick. Since becoming a member of the green and white, Ellis, who is a native of Jamaica, has constantly had fears of jail time and even the possibility of deportation hanging over his head. The resolution to this case that has been pending for nearly two years should finally give Ellis some closure, and allow him to move on with his NFL career, without being weighed down by his troubled past.
Once he is released from prison, presumably in late July/early August, Ellis will surely be around the right guys to ensure his character develops where it needs to be in order for him to accentuate his abilities as a player. Fellow Jets Defensive Lineman Marcus Dixon is no stranger to legal trouble. In 2003, Dixon, coincidentally a fellow Hampton University Alumni, was found guilty of statutory rape in Georgia and was sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison. After serving about a year of his sentence, the supreme court overturned the case, and Dixon was released and able to continue his NFL career. If there is anyone fitted to mentor Ellis on leaving his troubled past behind him, while focusing on moving forward, it is certainly Marcus Dixon.
Ellis’s situation is surely not the first case of an NFL player having to serve jail time in between seasons. In 2009, the Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw served 31 days in prison to complete a 60-day sentence he faced as a result of a petty larceny charge he attained while attending the University of Marshall in 2006. Similar to Ellis, Bradshaw began his collegiate career at the larger University of Virginia, but was dismissed following an underage drinking arrest in 2004. In the three seasons since serving his jail sentence, Bradshaw has rushed for 2,672 yards and 24 touchdowns, while playing a vital role in the Giants’ most recent Super Bowl run. The Jets would be ecstatic to see Ellis provide a similar level of production following the resolution to his legal troubles.
The key for Ellis’s success will be his ability to buy into the workman’s mentality that is prevalent on the Jets’ Defensive Line. Led by current Nose Tackle Sione Pouha, Ellis has an excellent veteran mentor to learn from in terms of play, character, work ethic, and leadership. Combine that with the constant exposure he will have to blue collar guys like Dixon, Mike DeVito, and Mohammed Wilkerson, and Ellis should have no problem developing into the player the Jets envisioned him to be when they selected him in last year’s draft. Physically, the potential is sky high. Now, Ellis must prove that he can be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of an NFL player and teammate.