Ellis to walk on at Charlotte

Published 8:46 am Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ben Ellis did amazing things almost routinely during the 2014-15 football seasons for Davie. As the pass moved downfield, fans moved forward in their seats the way they do at the ballpark when the hitter goes deep. Ellis seemingly always came down with it.

The highlight-reel catches and gaudy numbers, however, did  little to attract Division-I eyes. D-I coaches seldom recruit 5-foot-10 receivers.

December 2015 turned into June 2016 and Ellis did not have a Division-I offer, and he was bent on playing D-I football. It was getting late. Just when it looked like he was going to have to settle for a D-II career, the agonizing process came to the best possible conclusion.

Ellis is headed to Charlotte to play for the 49ers as a preferred walk-on. He reported to Charlotte’s camp this week.

“It was a dream of his to play D-I,” Davie coach DeVore Holman said. “When you’re not getting a scholarship, you have to really, really look for a place to fit in at. We had talked with Charlotte and it looked like they were going to give him an opportunity to be a preferred walk-on, and then things went away, so we started moving on. In fact, that week (Ellis) worked out at Catawba and they really liked him – a lot. And they were going to try to put something together.”

Ellis was at graduation practice in early June when things took an unexpected – and happy – turn. Holman called Ellis into a coaching office to deliver the dramatic moment.

“He was at graduation practice when I got a phone call from coach Joe Tereshinski, their receivers coach at Charlotte, asking me did I think Ben would like to be a 49er,” Holman said. “After he came off the field from graduation practice, I sat him down and told him. He was just all to pieces. I had him call coach Tereshinski. He’s just happy to have an opportunity.”

Ellis was utterly ecstatic.

“It was an indescribable feeling,” he said. “It was the best graduation present I could ask for. I went to Catawba a few days before and worked out. I was settling on Catawba and I was going to make the best of that situation. And then Charlotte came out of nowhere and gave me that spot on the team. So I was all for that right away. I didn’t think for two seconds.”

Ellis may not have the height that D-Is crave. He may not have the blazing speed that they look for. But he’s a prototypical gamer, he can dissect secondaries with clinical precision, and he will take your heart out and eat it in front of you.

He will forever be apart of Davie legend after making 49 catches for 1,191 yards and 11 TDs in 2014 and 91 catches for 1,215 yards with 17 TDs as a senior. He set a slew of single-season and single-game school records. Among his career records are 11 100-yard receiving games, 147 receptions and 31 TD catches. He’s the only War Eagle to have two 1,000-yard receiving seasons. And remember, he rewrote the record book in two years while others high on the charts received significant varsity playing time for three years.

“I’m clearly not the tallest or the fastest on the field,” Ellis said. “(But) I can get open and I don’t drop many passes – I’ll tell you that. I’m looking forward to new competition, a step up from what I’ve been used to. Two of Charlotte’s DBs were on my team in the East-West All-Star Game, and I know I can hang with them. So it’s going to be fun.”

In the first round of the 4A playoffs last November, Davie visited unbeaten Scotland County, which was ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Poll. The underdog War Eagles (5-7) played valiantly in 44-36 defeat, and Ellis had Scotland coaches singing his praises after he put on a route-running clinic with nine catches for 116 yards.

Who knows, Ellis might one day take a page from Hunter Renfrow, the 5-10, 175-pound receiver from Clemson who made two TD catches in last year’s national championship game against Alabama. Renfrow played for former Davie coach Doug Illing in 2013 at Socastee High.

“I told coach Tereshinski: People always talk about Ben’s height,” Holman said. “I look at it like the young man that Illing had who is at Clemson now. All Ben needed was an opportunity; he’ll earn his keep.

“Coach Tereshinski really likes the way Ben runs routes. Ben has an understanding of how to manipulate people to get to where he needs to be. One of the most important things is, he hasn’t seen a football that he didn’t like to catch. He has great hands, great timing and great ability. People ask me, how will he do against people that can really, really run? Well, we played against some pretty athletic people in our conference and nonconference, and he more than held his own. I know Scotland County’s DBs didn’t have arthritis. Obviously, the speed of the game is going to be faster. He’ll have to work his rear end off to make himself better and sharpen his craft.”

Davie’s East-West All-Stars

Davie had two representatives in the 68th East-West All-Star Football Game at Jamieson Stadium in Greensboro on July 20. Ellis played for the West and Dave Hunt was an assistant coach. Hunt, who handles linebackers at Davie, has been coaching since the early 1970s.

The East pulled away late to win 20-3. The West trailed just 6-3 in the fourth quarter before surrendering two touchdowns in less than three minutes. Both offenses were unimpressive. The teams combined for 16 first downs. The East had 36 yards on 39 rushing attempts, compared to 27-28 for the West. The West outgained the East 176-170. The West’s leading receiver was Nique Martin of East Forsyth, who had four catches for 29 yards. Ellis had three catches.

“But they were 4- and 5-yard outs – nothing much,” he said. “We only had two passing routes – a straight go and an out route. But it was a fun experience.”

Ellis became the 17th Davie player in the school’s 60-year history to suit up for the West. The others: John Grimes (1961), Ed Bowles (1962), Ronnie Spry (1966), Edgar Osborne (1967), Randall Ward (1967), Fred Bailey (1968), Allan Barger (1970), Chris Jacobs (1984), Andre Frost (1989), Sam Stovall (2003), Ryan Boehm (2005), ReShaun Parks (2006), Garrett Benge (2008), James Mayfield (2009), Zach Long (2010) and Adam Smith (2012).

“Just to have that opportunity was well deserved, and they made us all proud,” Holman said of Hunt and Ellis. “They really liked Ben over there. It was an honor just to have him on that field with the rest of those guys in the state of North Carolina.”

After astounding everyone in the prep area for the past two years, now Ellis is going to see what he can do at the D-I level. The 49ers open the season Sept. 1 at Louisville.

“I’m glad to have a locker,” he said. “I’m glad to be on the team. Now here’s my chance to earn that scholarship. That’s all I wanted.”