Oct. 13, 2005
It had been a long time coming and USC's redshirt sophomore Sedrick Ellis was finally getting his day. The Riverside Press-Enterprise was running an article about the Trojans' nose tackle and a couple of his teammates during August camp two months ago. A large picture of Ellis was set to accompany the article. On the day the story appeared, Ellis was greeted with a frantic phone call from his mother.
'She was like, 'They put the wrong picture in there!' She was more upset about it than I was,' Ellis recalls.
The newspaper had mistakenly run a photo of Trojan junior fullback Mike Brittingham, who shared Ellis's No. 49 jersey in 2003 and 2004 (Brittingham now wears No. 30). The snafu, although it didn't shake the 6-foot-1, 285-pound redshirt sophomore, reaffirmed the notion that, despite his talents, Ellis is virtually unknown outside of Troy. Ellis played under a shadow since he came to USC---the shadow of former All-American and current Philadelphia Eagle Mike Patterson. Patterson was a mainstay at nose tackle for the Trojans from 2001-2004, starting the last three years, including the last two with Ellis as his understudy.
Ellis took those years as a good tutorial and has begun to fill the void left by Patterson, contributing greatly to the two-time defending champion Trojans' defense.
'Those are big shoes to fill,' Ellis said of Patterson. 'I want to continue the legacy of a great D-line.'
Ellis has been able to do just that. In his first three starts, against Hawaii, Arkansas and Oregon, Ellis and the rest of USC's defense held the opposing teams to 17 points or less. Ellis debuted as a starter at Hawaii and followed it up four tackles against both Arkansas and Oregon which included three tackles for losses.
At this point, Ellis is reluctant to toot his own horn. Of his experience so far as a starter, he says, 'It's always nice to go out there and get some minutes.'
Ellis earned his minutes and his starting spot in practice last spring.Under Patterson, Ellis received limited playing time, but when the Trojans lost Patterson to graduation, the Chino, Calif., native realized he had an opportunity to fill that void.
'I knew I had to come out there and impress,' Ellis said. 'I had to show people I was ready to step up and play.'
Ellis impressed the person whose opinion on the field matters most: head coach Pete Carroll.
'Sedrick played tremendous football in the spring,' Carroll said. 'He proved his ability to play at a level that can replace Mike Patterson. He still lacks much game experience, but he's started off well. With each start, he's going to pick up more and more. He's part of a defensive line that has really set the tone for the entire defense.'
Comparisons to the similarly stocky Patterson, with whom Ellis still remains friends, aren't too much for Ellis, a high-school All-American, to handle.
'I'm not intimidated (by Patterson's legacy),' Ellis said. 'I can step up.'
Ellis has maintained this poise by watching and learning from Patterson for the past two years, which have not been without hardship for Ellis.
Ellis came to USC in the fall of 2003. He was prepared to jump into the lineup until he fractured his left ankle in practice. Although he played briefly against BYU, midseason surgery forced him to redshirt and sit out the remainder of the year.
As a 2004 redshirt freshman, Ellis was second on the depth chart behind Patterson. Ellis saw limited minutes in 11 games and had two tackles in the season, one against both Arizona State and Oregon State. Ellis remained optimistic and spirited for his team, although the stellar play of Patterson required Ellis to watch most of the Trojans' glory from the sidelines.
'The Orange Bowl is my best football memory, everyone just rushing to the field,' Ellis said. 'It was a great feeling.'
Ellis hopes to repeat the feeling this year. But Ellis also has bigger goals for himself.
'I want to win again and improve over the rest of my career,' Ellis said.'And like everyone, I want to make it to the NFL.'
If he makes it to the NFL, Ellis won't be able to play as an unknown anymore. Ellis takes this in stride.
'Sometimes (being unknown) is a benefit,' Ellis said. 'You can surprise them if they don't know what's coming. But it's also nice to get your name out there and have people recognize you for your accomplishments.'
By Colleen Murray, Sports Information student assistant
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