One of South Carolina’s most dynamic careers is over.
Bruce Ellington will forego his final seasons of football and basketball to enter the NFL Draft, USC confirmed on Friday. The decision was expected after Ellington graduated in December and then had a terrific final football game, catching six passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and also throwing a touchdown pass, during the Gamecocks’ Capital One Bowl win.
“I would like to thank coach (Steve) Spurrier, coach (Darrin) Horn and coach (Frank) Martin for giving me the opportunity to play both football and basketball at South Carolina,” Ellington said in a statement. “I also want to thank all the Gamecock fans and my teammates for the past four years in Columbia. It’s been a great experience and I’ve been truly blessed.”
Ellington met with Martin on Friday morning and informed him of his plans. While Martin recently said that in the past, two-sport stars such as Charlie Ward and Donovan McNabb finished their basketball seasons before going to the NFL, he also wished Ellington well and said that he would understand whatever decision Ellington made.
“Whatever he does, he’s got a friend for life in me,” Martin recently said. “The commitment that he’s made to this program is unparalleled, at least in my time here.”
That decision is to enter the NFL Draft and immediately begin preparing for the NFL Combine. Much like wide receiver Ace Sanders did last year, Ellington feels ready that despite his lack of size, he has the skills to make it as a professional football player.
He is the fourth USC underclassman to depart this year, following Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Victor Hampton.
Ellington will be remembered as one of the finest all-around athletes to ever play for the Gamecocks, although his performance on the football field vastly overshadowed his basketball exploits over the past two years. Signed as the cornerstone of a recruiting class by former basketball coach Horn, Ellington was fully prepared to give up football despite a stellar high-school career. His final game at the time was leading Berkeley High School to a state championship, which was played at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Ellington was an All-SEC Freshman, leading the Gamecocks in scoring and starting every game during his first season, but the call of football was too strong. He decided he wanted to play again and worked out a system with Horn and Spurrier, where he would train and condition for football and play basketball when he could.
Ellington was an All-SEC Freshman in football as an all-purpose player in 2011, but really made strides in 2012 and 2013. Ellington led the team in receiving yards each season and was the Gamecocks’ leader in receptions as well this season.
Ellington only played in three basketball games this year, but started his final two. Martin constantly praised Ellington’s enthusiasm to be around the basketball team, even when he wasn’t playing or practicing, and credited his leadership skills in the locker room. He has been instrumental in helping freshman point guard Duane Notice find his way in major college basketball, and was one of the team’s two seniors along with Brenton Williams.
His departure leaves a void in the basketball locker room and also on the football team. USC’s second-leading receiver was tailback Mike Davis, who was 15 catches behind Ellington’s pace. The next three receivers, Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones and Shaq Roland, will return in 2014.
Playing-wise, the USC basketball team still has point guards Notice, Ty Johnson and Jaylen Shaw to help overcome the loss.