San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver
The fourth-round NFL Draft pick out of South Carolina has a big supporter in his former head coach, Steve Spurrier.
“He caught so many big touchdown passes in close games the last couple of years,” said Spurrier, a former 49ers quarterback and a tenured SEC coach, in a recent interview on 95.7 The Game. “He’s really sensational.”
Spurrier didn’t stop there.
“He can go deep; he can go short,” the South Carolina coach said of the 5-foot-9, 197-pound wideout. “He can catch it everywhere. Excellent hands, very tough competitor. He can play anywhere.”
Ellington was arguably the most versatile athlete in the 2014 NFL Draft. He starred for both the Gamecocks’ football and basketball teams.
As the story goes, Ellington was recruited to play two sports at South Carolina, but decided to play basketball initially. The point guard turned wide receiver added football to his plate thanks to some harmless recruiting from 49ers running back
“I think Marcus Lattimore recruited him during class one day,” Spurrier recalled. “He said, ‘Hey man, you should come play football with us. You’re too good to not be playing.’”
Lattimore still remembers the conversation.
“I had to get him to play football while he was going to college because he was debating on playing basketball or football,” the second-year running back said. “It’s crazy that he’s here because that was one of my good friends back since high school.
“It’s good to have another Carolina boy out here. He’s a great player and an even better person.”
Ellington averaged 15 yards per reception in 39 games playing football. Meanwhile, he averaged 11.2 points per game in 80 appearances on the hardwood.
It seems like everyone wanted Ellington on their squad. So did Jim Harbaugh’s brother-in-law Tom Crean, the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team.
After San Francisco picked Ellington 106th overall in the draft, Crean reached out to Harbaugh to tell him about his failed recruitment of Ellington.
Ultimately, it was Spurrier and now Harbaugh, who will have the play-making athlete in their respective lineups.
“We’re really thrilled he went to San Francisco and we’re really thrilled Marcus is out there because that’s one of the really strong franchises in the NFL,” Spurrier said. “Nobody will be in better condition than Bruce and Marcus. Those guys love working out. They’re going to be ready to go.”
Ellington has experience playing two sports, plus playing multiple roles on the football field. He can return punts and kicks, catch passes from the perimeter or slot, and he can even run a reverse if needed.
The young wideout said his basketball background translates to his on-field play.
“It helps you go up and get the ball being a short guy, catch it over tall guys,” Ellington said.
So far in San Francisco’s offseason program, he has focused on adjusting to the wide receiver position.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I see the guys around me like to work and that’s what I like to do, so it’s pushing me to be the best I can be.”
Besides creating relationships with his fellow receivers, Ellington is building a bond with his new quarterback.
Just got that follow from my new QB @Kaepernick7— Bruce Ellington (@BruceEllington) May 16, 2014
“He’s a normal type of guy,” Ellington said of
Those who know Ellington can attest that the best is yet to come, especially now that he's focused on one sport.
“When he was playing both, he had school, too,” Lattimore said. “He had a lot to do, but now this is his job and he can focus on becoming on being better than he was in college. He was probably our best receiver last year (at South Carolina), so it’s going to be amazing to see him here.”