Andre Ellington had quite the act to follow. After the Bills made former Clemson Tiger C.J. Spiller the eighth pick of the draft in 2010, Ellington was elevated to starter status. It took him a little while, but Ellington reached back-to-back, 1,000-yard seasons the past two years and expanded his game as a receiver and returner.
The team was up and down his sophomore and junior seasons, losing two bowl games, including a haunting 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia to cap off the 2011 season. But Ellington and Clemson came back strong with an 11-2 record and a bowl victory over LSU to send him and the other seniors out in style. During his four years, Ellington totaled 3,941 yards from scrimmage, 642 kick-return yards (on only 26 attempts) and 36 total touchdowns. Best yet: He missed only one full game in his career.
[More on running backs: Will one go in the first round?]
The shifty, fast Ellington does not seek the spotlight, though. He's quiet and introspective and willing to let others have the spotlight, but he did take a few minutes to talk with CBS about his toughest loss, replacing Spiller, an aborted 40-yard dash attempt, his hamstring, the Toronto Raptors and bowling.
Eric Edholm: We know your speed is one of your biggest weapons. What are the other parts of your game that you think set you apart?
Andre Ellington: I would say my willingness to block. That is something that I take pride in. Linebackers, when they blitz, they try to intimidate me because they think that I can't block. I think I surprise them when I hit them.
Edholm: In talking to NFL teams, what do they want to know about you the most?
Ellington: Most of them seem to be trying to find out who you are as a person. They've gotten to see us on film, so they want to get to know you and see what your thoughts are as far as football is concerned -- basically, if you love it or not.
Edholm: And do you?
Ellington: Yes, sir. No question. And [teams] have found that out.
Edholm: Is it tough to tell which teams have shown the most interest in you?
Ellington: It's kind of hard to describe this whole process, from the Senior Bowl to the Combine, and all this pre-draft stuff. There's no way for me to put it all into context. I also heard from players who already went through the process that teams that contact you might not be the ones that are most interested in you.
Edholm: Was the Orange Bowl your low point in school?
Ellington: I think so. That was a rough one. I fumbled in that one right near the goalline and they ran it back. We didn't play well that [night]. That one definitely stung.
Edholm: Is there one or two game tapes you'd want an NFL scout to look at for them to see you at your best?
Ellington: I would say the Auburn game from last year
Edholm: I seem to remember you breaking a few tackles in that one.
Ellington: Yes, sir. That was a career-high night for me (231 yards rushing). I had a lot of great runs that night and I was 100 percent healthy. The next game I would tell scouts to watch would be my sophomore year against Georgia Tech.
Edholm: That was the year you had just taken over for C.J. Spiller, top-10 pick in the draft that spring. That had to be a pretty big act to follow.
Ellington: I actually finished my career third in school history (in rushing yards). James Davis is first, C.J. is second and I'm third. But I knew what [Spiller] was capable of; I played with him. It was a blessing to watch him run and then follow him [as the Tigers' starter].
Edholm: You injured your hamstring running the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Were you worried you might have set yourself back or hurt your draft stock with that one?
Ellington: Not really. The main thing was staying focused and not trying to do too much. I wanted to make sure I was healthy when I ran.
Edholm: Your Pro Day workout came about a month later, and your agent said he wanted to cancel it for fear that you were not fully healthy. How close did you come to not working out that day?
Ellington: I was about 85 percent healthy that day, and I actually played in some games where I was less healthy that that. I actually played pretty well in those games. My Pro Day was really similar to that. I was able to get out there, run and do some drills.
Edholm: And you chose to run your 40-yard dashes after a 90-minute workout. Why not do that first?
Ellington: Yes. For one, I was already loose. I felt like I would be warmed up that way. On a side note I kind of wanted to show [NFL teams] that it's the mentality for me to go out there and run the 40 after being exhausted and sore and things like that at the end of the workout.
Edholm: What's the latest on your hammy?
Ellington: It's fine now. I am ready to go.
Edholm: You didn't get to return kickoffs much at Clemson because of guys like C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins, but is that something you think you'll be asked to do in the NFL?
Ellington: Yes, I definitely think I can and will. It just depends on what they want. When I did do it, I was pretty good at it. I think it was my first ever return in college that I ran back 87 yards for a touchdown [against Maryland]. So I only can get better at it with more practice.
Edholm: Your cousin, Bruce Ellington, a receiver at South Carolina, is a pretty good athlete as well. I have heard you guys are close, so it had to burn you a little to watch him catch the game-clinching touchdown against you guys this season.
Ellington: You know what? Not at all. Bruce will tell you: If I am not his biggest fan, I am one of them. No schools can come between our relationship or anything like that. We grew up together, lived in the same house. It just so happened that we went to two different schools.
Edholm: Bruce also plays point guard for the Gamecocks. How's his hoops game?
Ellington: Well, I can tell you, if you're going to guard him, make sure you can get back on him. Don't let him get by you. He's explosive on the court in basketball.
Edholm: Can you take him in one on one?
Ellington: I try. I try to challenge him a little bit. But he's a guy who doesn't get tired. I mean he does not get tired. We always make fun of him and tell him he has two hearts.
Edholm: Also have heard your personality and his are night and day.
Ellington: Bruce, he's more outspoken. Me, I am just … I kind of like to sit back and watch what's going on before I act upon it.
Edholm: Running backs seem to be devalued by some NFL teams, and many are part-time players. Do you worry that this will hurt where you're drafted eventually?
Ellington: Not at all. That's stuff that I can't control. This is the only time I have to be a part of this experience. Wherever I end up or whoever picks me, I'll just look at it as a great opportunity and go from there.
Edholm: Is it important to you to be the first running back drafted?
Ellington: I mean, it would mean a lot. There [are] a lot of great guys in this draft at this position. To be drafted before any of the guys at the top of this position? That would be an honor.
Edholm: Few fun ones … What kind of car do you drive?
Ellington: Right now, I am carless. I am just kind of sitting around and waiting.
Edholm: Waiting for your first NFL paycheck?
Ellington: Yes indeed.
Edholm: Favorite video game?
Ellington: Oh yeah, I am an NBA2K guy.
Edholm: What team do you play with?
Ellington: I don't do too much -- I am a Lakers fan, but playing with them and the good teams can be too easy sometimes. When I play, I get like the Toronto Raptors.
Edholm: If you can win with them, you must be good.
Ellington: It's a little challenge [laughs].
Edholm: Best movie you've seen lately?
Ellington: Oh, man. It's been a while. I am actually going to see the Jackie Robinson movie [‘42'] this week, so I'll let you know how it is.
Edholm: Fair enough. Do you have any hidden talents -- magic tricks, juggling, musical instrument, anything fun like that?
Ellington: I am actually pretty good at bowling.
Edholm: Really? What's your high game?
Ellington: I never rolled a 300, but I have come close. The most I ever had was 258 I think.
Edholm: Not bad. Second career in case the NFL doesn't work out?
Ellington: I hope not. [laughs] But I'll be ready in case.