Ellard embraces life as Mississippi State walk-on

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

STARKVILLE &045; Ask Andrew Ellard what the Mississippi State Bulldogs are going to do today to win, and he may not give you an exact idea.

But ask him about LSU. He can tell you all about the Tigers’ offense.

As a freshman walk-on at Mississippi State, the former Cathedral standout is taking on the duties of a first-year walk-on &045;he plays the opposing team in the upcoming game along with the normal duties of players during the week.

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So when State hosts the Tigers at 1:30 p.m. today, Ellard won’t suit up but is aware of what needs to happen when the underdog Bulldogs face the fifth-ranked team in the nation.

&uot;The thing that’s going to help us a lot is LSU is coming off a Monday game,&uot; Ellard said. &uot;They don’t have a lot of recovery time. They’re still good. We’re just going to try to hang with them and do the best we can.&uot;

So goes the life of a walk-on, one who has to work hard, not complain and be grateful for anything thrown his way. And Ellard will never complain, since to him it’s nothing worth complaining about and is something he’s wanted to do as long as he can remember.

While he admits he may be the smallest player on the team, he’s grateful.

&uot;That was something he wanted to do,&uot; said his dad, Mike Ellard, who also walked on at MSU in 1978 before a knee injury the following spring ended his career. &uot;He had a chance with some smaller schools. I’m proud of him. He had enough guts to hang in there.&uot;

It was a process that began well before his graduation from Cathedral and just after his final football season ended in November. There were mounds of paperwork to fill out, and they bring a number of guys after that up to campus for workouts and go from there.

It helps that State head coach Sylvester Croom is a guy who likes walk-ons, and the Bulldogs are thin on talent.

Ellard was one of seven that made the final cut &045; five offensive linemen, two recivers &045; to make the team.

Ellard was one of seven that made the final cut &045; five offensive linemen, two recivers &045; to make the team.

&uot;They try to weed a lot of guys out with (the paperwork),&uot; Ellard saisd. &uot;Then we had to go to the indoor practice facility, and you had to bench press a certain amount. You went through a lot of 40 times and quickness drills. A lot of it was I think there were guys just as good as I was, but it’s really on the position they need at the time.

&uot;They told me maybe three weeks before the season started. That was kind of nerve-wracking there. I was nervous. I’ve been wanting to do it since I was little bitty. It was great.&uot;

It was somewhat of a long shot for Ellard, who was merely 5-10 and 165 pounds coming out of a Class A high school. He had good speed but nothing blazing, yet coaches at Cathedral had a hunch he would catch somebody’s eye at Starkville.

The Bulldogs need depth at receiver, and Ellard is a guy who will do whatever it takes.

&uot;I know that he’s a hard-nosed kid and I knew he wants it,&uot; Cathedral coach Ken Beesley Sr. said. &uot;He had his heart set on going to Mississippi State. If hard work will get the job done, he’ll get it done. I feel like if they’ll give him a decent chance, they’ll like what they’ll see. I know he has the desire, and that’s the No. 1 thing.&uot;

And for one of the smallest guys on the team, he’s getting a quick orientation to college football. As the opposing team’s receiver during practice, the first-team defense doesn’t take it easy on him.

Then there’s film to watch, classes to attend and even the fraternity to stay in touch with.

&uot;I’ve got to learn the opposing team’s offense and defense &045; mostly offense,&uot; Ellard said. &uot;They definitely get a hold of you. You’re sore all the time. That’s for everybody. As the season goes, they kind of lay off of that a little bit. More than anything, it’s a lot of class time. I go to at least two or three hours of film and classes a day. I go to the locker room at 1:30 stay top 7:30.&uot;

Ellard won’t be on the sideline for today’s game, but neither will the other walk-ons. Right now he’s focused on sticking with whatever gets thrown his way this fall and try to make an impression when spring drills begin.

The Bulldogs are thin in that area this season with Tee Milons as the only senior and Will Prosser as the lone junior. From there are sophomores and freshmen.

&uot;If you’re going to walk on somewhere, (Croom) is the guy you want,&uot; Mike Ellard said. &uot;They’re kind of thin on talent. We’ll see. They’ll put a good 15-20 pounds on him with their weight program. He figures it’s a long shot. I think he’ll be happy if he gets a letter out of four years.&uot;

The biggest thing, Andrew noted, was getting in the weight room and bulking up if he wants to have a chance in the spring. And he’s realistic about his chances as a walk-on &045; try to get a spot and dress out next fall and fit in somewhere on the depth chart as a junior or senior.

&uot;Croom to me is kind of hard-nosed,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;He likes to work hard, and Andrew will definitely work hard. I haven’t had that many players that have had the dedication he’s had. If you walk on, you’ve got to have a little luck along the way to get that chance. I know he’ll be ready if he gets that chance to show what he can do.&uot;

For now, that’s in the future. Today’s the day of the big game at Davis Wade Stadium, and Ellard knows his team is ready.

&uot;It’ll be a big one if we pull it off,&uot; he said. &uot;The goal posts will go down.&uot;