Bruce Ellington has not joined South Carolina’s football team yet, but he has already pitched the idea that he would make a heck of a Wildcat-formation quarterback, he said Tuesday.
“They said (I might do it) a little bit,” Ellington said following South Carolina’s ninth spring practice at the Gamecock Proving Grounds, giving his first extended interview since telling football coach Steve Spurrier and basketball coach Darrin Horn of his decision to play both sports.
Ellington started at point guard and led Horn’s team in scoring (12.8 ppg) and assists (97) this season. He is 100 percent certain, he said, he will rejoin the basketball team following football season — but for now he is eager to get back on the football field following a one-year hiatus.
“I just decided to play football because I missed it,” he said. “I really wanted to come out and try it out. It has been on my mind for a while.”
Ellington told reporters after the Gamecocks’ basketball season ended he had no intention of playing football, but he had been missing it for a while, he said.
“When y’all asked me that, we had lost so I really wasn’t thinking about football so I said, ‘No.’ But I went home and talked to my mama about playing and she told me to pray on it, and I did that,” he said. “I really wanted to come out and play, and she was OK with my decision.”
Ellington’s mother asked him to delay football one more year but told him she would support any decision he made, she said. Ellington most missed “just being out here, the fans, just being out here running and juking people, just having fun,” he said.
He was one of South Carolina’s most coveted high school football players before choosing to play for Horn. The Gamecocks football coaches have told him he will get a chance to play slot receiver, kickoff returner, punt returner and perhaps cornerback in addition to a few snaps at quarterback, he said.
“I think I have a little bit of rust, but after I get on the field, I think I’ll be all right,” he said.
Ellington had hoped to join the football team for spring practice but has been unable to suit up due to NCAA rules regarding athletes who enter school on a non-football athletic scholarship. He will be able to practice in the fall.
“I am very disappointed,” he said. “It is kind of hard coming out here and watching them practice and knowing I can’t be out there yet.”
Ellington has attended three of the past four spring practices as a spectator but has not been able to learn much from the sideline, he said.
“I’m just kind of out here watching,” he said.
He will spend the summer working out with the football team in an effort to put back on some bulk he has lost since high school, he said. Ellington will wear No. 23 in the fall, the same number his cousin Andre Ellington wears at Clemson, where he is a running back.
“I texted him and told him I got No. 23, so he said ‘You’ve got no choice but to go out there and ball now,’” Ellington said.
Ellington does not believe Horn was disappointed by his decision to play football in addition to basketball, he said.
“He told me when he was recruiting me if I came in and wanted to play football that I could go play football, so he was with it,” he said.
He also defended the basketball program, which saw a rash of departures last week in addition to his decision to divert at least some of his attention to football.
“I think the basketball program is working on being better,” he said. “We have players coming in, even though we have some players leaving. We are just going to work together and continue to play.”