Closer to dad, but further from his heart
- Mitch Stephens
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Rhett Ellison will be a USC fan one more season only.
The incoming St. Francis-Mountain View senior tight end verbally committed to Virginia Tech last week, surprising his friends in Santa Clara County and breaking the heart -- temporarily, anyway -- of his dad, Riki, the former 49ers and Raiders linebacker who played at USC.
The younger Ellison, who's 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, grew up a diehard Trojans' backer as well.
"He knew where my heart stood," Riki Ellison said by phone Monday. "When he first told me, it was a little hard to overcome. But this isn't about me. It's about Rhett. He has to cut out his own path and this is definitely the best environment for him to succeed."
Rhett, ranked the state's 60th top recruit by rivals.com, picked the Hokies over USC and Miami. He also received offers from Cal, Oregon and Arizona State.
A desire to "stretch myself" -- he has lived his entire life in California -- along with an immediate rapport with the Virginia Tech staff and players contributed to his decision.
"It's a college town and there are no distractions," Rhett said.
It also helped that Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator, Bryan Stinespring, is the tight ends coach.
"They get their tight ends down the field and into the offense," Rhett Ellison said.
Said Riki: "It's a lot different than USC, where the focus is on the running backs and wide receivers."
By choosing the Hokies, Rhett will be nearer his father, who has lived in Alexandria, Va., for about a decade. He is the president and chief promoter of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance out of Washington D.C.
"(Being close to his dad) is definitely a bonus," Rhett said. "He's come out to three or four (St. Francis) games every year, but now, hopefully, he'll get a chance to see me play even more."
It won't be easy. Rhett, who had 26 catches for 301 yards and five touchdowns last year, is the fifth tight end from the class of 2007 to commit to the Hokies.
Said Riki: "He knows what competition is about. He's seen it since he was a kid at 49ers and Raiders camps. He knows what it takes."
St. Francis assistant coach Tim Houlihan said Rhett also has the work ethic and attitude to succeed. Houlihan compared him to former Dallas Cowboys tight end Doug Cosbie, who graduated from St. Francis.
"He's a great kid, hard worker and excellent teammate," Houlihan said. "He has just one speed and that's 'go.' "
Rhett runs 4.70 in the 40-yard dash and likes contact. Riki said he and Rhett share few physical attributes.
"He's a lot more athletic and he actually has some hands," Riki said. "Plus, he's got an offensive mentality. I never had that."