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July 26, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. - It is a helpless feeling for anyone: Knowing what is coming, and all-but-knowing the outcome, but being unable to change anything.
For an FBS-level athlete, competing on the football field and being powerless is the worst.
"It is frustrating, no doubt," Ellis said. "It is annoying that we know on third and short it will be a quick choice route to the back, and we can't stop it."
Such is the life of a linebacker during a summer circuit passing tournament. And so went the day for Ellis and his fellow linebackers across all 32 teams at the National Select 7-on-7.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder said that if these games were taking place in October and not July the results would certainly be different.
"We would stop it if this was real football, but it isn't," he said. "There are plays that work here that do not work in the regular season and people will run them over and over. Sometimes it gets stupid."
Hoover (Ala.) High head coach Josh Niblett said he feels for the kids playing that position.
"You do not want any part of being a linebacker out here in these things," he said. "You are in a no-win situation because you know that every team, when they need a play, is going to try to single you out."
That, in part, is also what can make the day fun.
"I get a chance to run a lot of one-on-one reps," Ellis said. "Sometimes if we are playing in a Tampa-coverage I am the deep so I have to stay with whoever is going deep and it's all on me. If I don't get to that 'three' then it is going to be a touchdown.
"It is a challenge but it is fun."
Loganville (Ga.) Grayson athlete Wayne Gallman was playing linebacker for his team today. It is not his regular position, but he still felt the pressure.
"I think that I am versatile so I can play some different spots," he said. "If I am at running back or safety or linebacker, I think I can be a game changer.
"People were coming after me today on a few plays, but I think I am pretty good on defense."
The Clemson-bound Gallman checked into the event at 6-feet-1 and 191-pounds and can run a 4.5 second 40. Suffice it to say he isn't a typical linebacker.
He ended the day with four interceptions.
Ellis said that he doesn't judge his performance with inceptions, although he certainly enjoys making them.
"I think I have about three or four picks this 7-on-7 season," Ellis said. "When they aren't throwing your way it can be boring but when they are it is a lot of fun. I tend to try to get more swats, though."
What both said they have more problems with than potentially being targeted is not being able to hit opposing players as they run free across the middle of the field.
"Everyone loves to hit," Gallman said. "I almost hit a kid my last game ... well, I did hit a kid a little but not like I would in the game. It is hard to hold up."
Ellis takes a wait-and-see approach, because he knows it is only a matter of time before he will get a chance to take a little shot.
"I usually wait until the other team starts tackling, and then I may wrap someone up," he said. "Nothing hard, and not to hurt anyone, but it is hard not to. I just don't want to be the first one."
What neither wanted to do was be the weak link for his team.
Grayson returns nine players on defense and figures to be among the best units in the country. And while Gallman will primarily play running back, for the summer he is using the time on defense as a chance to learn.
"When I am playing linebacker, I can see what the running back is doing," he said. "That can make me better when I am on that side of the ball because I can see what a route looks like and learn from it. Then I won't give it away when I am the one running it."
Ellis just wants to be out with his teammates and competing.
"I love competition and want to be a part of it," he said. "I want to be a leader on the defense. We don't really put much stock into wins and losses out here, although we want to win every time. But our defensive coordinator just makes sure we know we are out here to get better."
Even if that means knowing being powerless when it could count the most.