Elliott fights for his dream in final preseason game

by Gary Shelton on August 30, 2017 · 0 comments

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Elliott has had to fight his way up the depth chart./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Elliott has had to fight his way up the depth chart./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

He is a longshot. No, longer than that. Back up. Back up some more. He's an even longer shot than that.

He is the ultimate longshot, a dream wrapped in a fantasy twisted around an ambition. He has no reason to be here, but the way he sees it, there is no reason for him to leave. There is merely the next day, and the next drill.

If you are looking for a reason to watch the Bucs' preseason game Thursday night, you could do worse than backup cornerback Javien Elliott, a former FSU player who has a ghost of a chance of lasting another season in the NFL.

What? Do you expect him to give up the ghost?

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He was forgotten, unwanted, uninvited. After his senior year of high school — he had one recruiting trip ; an unofficial visit to South Alabama – he sat out for three football seasons. College football bravely went on without him.

That was before he heard about walk-ons. “I thought it was all scholarship players,” he said. And with his dad's help, he contacted FSU, and began the long climb up the depth chart.

“I kind of feel like I was just another guy walking on,” he said.

Ah, but by the time he was a senior, and he had outlasted four- and five-star recruits, he started in six games and had 37 tackles and an interception.

Still, that's a different dream from the NFL. Again, he wasn't drafted, and teams didn't pull muscles to sign him as a free agent. But he showed up at the Bucs last year, and he made one start. This year, he is in the running to be a backup corner.

“It's pretty much a similar start to how it is here,” Elliott said. “When I got to FSU, my goal was to do something to stand out. At FSU, they have four and five star recruits every year. I just had to do something to stand out.

“I just go out there every day and show I can learn a playbook and do everything better than the guys before me.”

The thing is, Elliott likes being the underdog.

“Had it been given to me easier, I might not have worked as hard as I did to get to where I'm at,” Elliott said. “I probably would have gotten comfortable. I like the route I took. It separates me from a lot of people. It shows how hard I work.”

Make no mistake about it. When a player is a high-draft pick, he gets to make more mistakes than an afterthought. The team's investment is higher

“That's why I say I have to do everything better,” Elliott said. “I have limited mistakes as a walk-on. As a scholarship player, they're going to have more chances. As a walk-on, you can't make the same mistakes over and over again.”

What are the odds of an unrecruited, undrafted player sticking in the NFL? A million to one?

Elliott laughs.

“Yeah,” he said. “I've just got prove everyone wrong.”

There is a moral here. Longshots do hit the target. Dreamers do realize their dreams.

“Don't let anybody tell you no,” Elliott said.

That's what tonight is about. True, a lot of us are snobs. We want to see the stars shine. We want to see the headliners. Who cares about the bottom of the depth chart? Well, the dreamers care.

"It's important," Elliott said about the final preseason game." Right now, I'm in a position where it's a battle. Every day is crucial. Every little thing I do is important."

Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bucs' backup quarterback, knows.

"If the NFL didn't have four preseason games then I wouldn't be standing here right now, Fitzpatrick said. "It's a great opportunity. I think extending the roster to 90 for that fourth game is awesome because it gives a lot of these guys a chance. I was one of those guys, not just for one or two years but for a lot of years, where in that fourth preseason game I was playing for a job.

"Everybody likes to complain now about the shortened offseason and all that stuff; well, this is a real chance for some of these guys who have been putting in a lot of work to show what they can do on tape, and not just audition for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but for everybody. It's one of those things, especially as a veteran, and all the starters that aren't going to play, you've got to stay into it because these are guys that are fighting. It's fun to watch that."

 

Bernard Reedy cares. Larry Wester and Alan Cross and Riley Bulloch and the rest of them.

A million to one?

In other words, there is a chance.

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