By Jeff Goodman
The two-sport star is a dying breed.
Deion Sanders was recently inducted into the football Hall of Fame as one of the elite cover cornerbacks of all-time, but he was also a fairly accomplished major league baseball player.
Before him, there was Bo Jackson. After him, there have been guys like Charlie Ward, Todd Helton, Tony Gonzalez and Julius Peppers.
Now comes Bruce Ellington.
I know, Ellington isn’t exactly a household name – but South Carolina’s leading returning scorer on the hardwood is trying to pull double duty this year – and has joined the football team as a kick returner/slot receiver.
``I love both sports,” Ellington said. ``I played both when I was younger, so it’s second nature to me.”
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Ellington, who averaged 12.8 points a year ago, led his Berkeley High (S.C.) to a state title as a senior quarterback. He played receiver and cornerback his freshman and sophomore seasons – and moved to running back his junior year.
The plan is to spend the season with the football team and then join the basketball team.
The difficult task, which Ellington is fully aware, will be getting on the field on a team that is expected to contend for an SEC title. South Carolina is loaded at the receiver spot – and the Gamecocks have one of the nation’s best in Alshon Jeffery.
``When he was recruiting me, Coach (Darrin) Horn always told me it was my decision whether to play football,” Ellington said. ``I talked to him and he was 100 percent behind me. He even said he’s going to come to my games.”
Horn said he watched three of Ellington’s high school football games and calls his point guard “the best athlete he’s ever coached.”
``He’s got so much physical God-given ability,” Horn said. ``When you talk about everything – quickness, jumping, strength, balance, explosion – he has it all at the highest level. And what separates him is he can go all day. He’s got a gear and he can get to it when everyone else’s gear is stripped.”
Ellington and his teammates begin practice with full pads this past weekend and he said the most difficult part of the transition thus far is getting used to the heat.
``That and learning the playbook,” said Ellington, who admittedly favors basketball. ``There’s a lot more plays and you have to learn all the coverages.”
Ellington said he tried to pull double duty as much as possible in the summer, hitting the weight room with the football team in the morning and then playing pickup in the afternoon.
``I’ll always in good shape, so I think I’ll be able to come back to basketball and still be in the groove,” Ellington said.
Horn hopes so.
``We’re behind him 100 percent and hope he does extremely well,” Horn said. ``We look forward to getting him back after he wins a national championship.”
South Carolina's Ellington: Rare two-sport guy
By Jeff Goodman