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Living in the Moment — The Joshua Ellison Story

Search around the country and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a state that loves its football as much as Texas. Every fall, thousands of kids throughout the Lone Star State sign up for community-based leagues to learn the very basics of the sport, and Josh Ellison was no exception. While some are eventually drawn away to chase other hobbies as they grow older, football becomes a large part of life for others like Ellison. Consumed with the game since the age of six, Ellison had to skip the local Pop Warner league as he quickly outgrew his age group and exceeded the size limitation requirement for admission.

His admiration for the game never left, though, and after joining his middle school’s football team, Ellison found himself excelling at multiple positions on the playing field. When he enrolled at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas, Ellison ultimately decided to stick with the defensive side of the ball. Using his natural size and power, Ellison contributed to the team even while possessing less in-game experience than his peers. In his first season of playing varsity football as a sophomore defensive lineman, Ellison was named the District 18-5A Defensive Newcomer of the Year. Ellison knew, however, that he could take his game to the next level with his physical ability. “When junior year came around, I lost weight and started moving better, and that’s when the offers started rolling in,” Ellison told Bluff City Media.

Kansas and Indiana were among the first Power 5 schools to come knocking, followed by hometown Texas A&M. Tennessee, Baylor, and Texas Tech additionally contacted Ellison with scholarship offers amid a big junior season that would land him first-team all-district honors. After being named the District 10-5A-II Defensive MVP as a senior, Ellison headed an hour down the road to Blinn College for six months while working to get academically eligible for Division One football.

After one season at the junior college level, the moment Ellison had been dreaming of since a six-year-old in East Texas had finally arrived. As the eighth-ranked junior college recruit in the country, Ellison elected to sign with Lincoln Riley at the University of Oklahoma. The next two seasons would be full of success. Ellison played in all 24 games while helping the Sooners win a Big 12 Conference Championship and back-to-back bowl victories over Florida and Oregon. Lincoln Riley departed for USC following the 2021 season, and with time running out in his college career, Ellison didn’t feel as if he was being used to his full potential under the new staff in Norman.

In January 2023, Ellison entered the transfer portal looking for a better fit in his final guaranteed season of football. There was some initial thought of reuniting with his former coach in Southern California, as well as communication with Arkansas, TCU, and Colorado. Then Kyle Pope gave the fifth-year senior a phone call. “He wanted to pique my interest about Memphis, so I told him I would take a visit down there,” Ellison said. After meeting with Pope and Silverfield, Ellison felt a personal connection he hadn’t experienced in some time. “We talked about my goals and he (Pope) showed me how he cared about my future, football and outside of football,” Ellison continued, “I checked his resume and saw how many guys he had put in the league — first, second, and third rounders — a guy like that you don’t come across often.”

With less than a year of college eligibility remaining in his career, Ellison decided to commit to the Tigers. Ellison quickly turned heads in summer workouts, and while he could’ve touted his pedigree as a former high-level defensive lineman, head coach Ryan Silverfield said his starting nose guard was immediately all in with his new team in Memphis. “Josh has been a tremendous asset,” Silverfield said Thursday night following the Tigers’ victory over Navy, “he bleeds blue, he’s so happy to be here, and loves this university.”

It’s all a part of a “day-by-day” approach for Ellison as only a handful of games remain in his college career. Like many playing in their final season of college, Ellison has dreams of playing in the NFL next fall. And while getting the attention of professional scouts may seem like a daunting task, Ellison chooses to focus on being a playmaker in the moments when the Tigers need it most. “I try not to think too hard about the future,” Ellison said, “the mentality I’ve been trying to focus on all year is trying to change the game; being a playmaker to change the game in a good way.”

Thursday night with the Tigers’ undefeated record on the line, Josh Ellison did just that. Navy QB Tai Lavatai took the snap on the Memphis 13-yard line with 25 seconds remaining in the game. Following a brief scan of the secondary, Lavatai looked as if he was going to scramble out of the pocket to make a dash for the endzone. He was engulfed by Ellison, however, and the seasoned veteran from Texas recorded his first sack of the year in the biggest moment of the game.

Josh Ellison has never shied away from the moment, and he’s using that big game experience to prepare his teammates for the Tigers’ toughest battle yet this weekend in St. Louis. “It’s really just a name, a brand, and a school,” Ellison said, “they’ve got athletes just like we do. Nobody is better than us and that’s the mentality I hope everybody goes in the game with.”

Where Ellison’s football journey goes from here remains to be seen. If it’s within his control, however, there are no plans of ending a love for the game that blossomed almost 20 years ago. As the hourglass runs on Ellison’s outstanding football career, Tiger fans hope he’s saved his best college performance for last.

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