LIVE FROM THE COMBINE
Post and Courier college reporter Aaron Brenner will be reporting and tweeting live from the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis. Follow him here on Twitter for all the latest news and notes.
INDIANAPOLIS - You're probably familiar with Bruce Ellington's background.
He started his South Carolina career as a basketball point guard, eventually joining the football team too. The wide receiver from Moncks Corner played some high school ball at Berkeley with his older cousin, Andre Ellington, and then against him when Andre was a Clemson running back. He has a wicked cool Williams-Brice serenade - they're not saying boo, they're saying 'Bruuuuuce.'
You know that. The South Carolina contingent knows that. Now the national audience knows that.
Ellington shared his story at the NFL Scouting Combine when wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks commanded the microphones at Lucas Oil Stadium. Being a two-sport star was one of those media-friendly headlines Ellington was happy to discuss with a roundtable of reporters Friday afternoon.
"I just played basketball my freshman year," Ellington said. "Then I went to the Alabama (football) game when we beat them when they were No. 1.
"I said, I gotta play in front of this."
There once was a time Ellington thought he might be listening for his name as an NBA draft selection. Instead, Ellington is a reasonable bet to become one of the first 100 names read off at the 2014 NFL draft in early May.
It was Ellington's final college football game, the greatest game of his Gamecocks career - a six-catch, 140-yard, two-touchdown performance to beat Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day - that sent him to the professional ranks.
"That was the game that kind of sealed the deal, if I was going to stay or come back," Ellington said. "After I had that game, I knew for sure I was done. Because you're not going to have so many years in the NFL. I've been doing two sports, so after a while, my body's gonna run down. So it was time for me to go."
Still, Ellington consulted with both his South Carolina head coaches before announcing his decision.
Basketball coach Frank Martin told him "go with your heart."
Football coach Steve Spurrier asked Ellington if he had turned his draft advisory papers in yet.
"So I knew he was cool with it," Ellington said. "This is what I want to do. This is what I prayed I was going to do, and I'm here."
Balancing football with basketball has its stamina advantages, which he'll show off this weekend.
"I'd say with my conditioning, it kept me in shape. There's a lot of drills you do with football that you do with basketball," Ellington said. "You've got to stay low, slide, and that's good with the shuttle drill. Vertical (jump), you do that with both."
By the same token, Ellington might not know how good he is.
"I was thinking that to myself one day," he said, "now that I'm focusing on one sport, I can really do a lot more things."
An Arizona-based reporter offered up a hypothetical in which the Cardinals draft Ellington, pairing him with cousin Andre, who surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his rookie year.
"Man, it would be amazing," Ellington said with a big smile. "I told him, if I come there, I'll try to get No. 83 because he got 38. I could follow his footsteps and learn from him."
Both Ellingtons wore No. 21 at their respective schools.
"Yeah, you know, me and him grew up in the same yard playing football one-on-one together," Bruce said. "It's very exciting to see him doing his thing at the next level, so it's pushing me to get up there."
On Friday morning, Ellington officially measured 5-foot-9 and 3/4 inches tall and weighed 196 pounds. He said he idolizes similarly diminutive Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers.
Ellington's goal is to bench press a 225-pound bar between 22 and 25 times Saturday, before on-field timing drills Sunday.
"At Columbia, South Carolina, I didn't really get to show everything I can do, because you have to play the game, and everybody's got to get the ball," Ellington said. "I think I can show a lot of things, running the 40, doing my shuttle and catching and running routes. I'm ready for everything. I'm ready to show teams what I can do."
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