Ezekiel Elliott had to walk a tightrope all season. There were the expectations, there were the allegations, there was the rookie-rushing record, there was the pressure of being the fourth-overall pick. There was the fun-loving rookie who sometimes let his exuberance get out ahead of him, there was the guy who had yet to realize that everything he did would be scrutinized. He needed to be himself, but he also needed to fit in the structure of an NFL team. He couldn’t lose the childlike-wonder that makes him so engaging, but he had to grow up fast and assume new responsibilities.
Consider it mission accomplished.
Elliott turned out to be exactly what the Cowboys needed. It wasn’t just his play on the field, which was outstanding and should easily win him many Rookie of the Year honors. It was also his youthful enthusiasm that helped transformed the normally staid Cowboys into an engaging, lovable bunch. Heck, it even infected the old man, Jason Witten.
So do yourself a favor and read this story on Elliott over at ESPN. It touches on a bunch of different aspects of Zeke’s rookie year. It has some good behind-the-scenes quote from his position coach, Gary Brown, and comments from others and Zeke himself.
A few choice examples.
On hurdling tacklers:
"Whenever you get a DB in the open field with open space, he's going to cut tackle," Elliott said, "so I thought I might have to pull the hurdle out. Sometimes, you run over a guy. Sometimes, you give him a move. Sometimes, you hurdle him. You gotta keep changing it up, so the defense doesn't know what you're going to do."
Tyrone Crawford on Zeke coming into the defensive huddle during a timeout late in the 49ers game when the defense was trying to preserve a victory.
"He was looking for any way to help his teammates. That's not normal for a rookie running back who's been on the team for four weeks." Crawford said he was surprised to see Elliott in the huddle "He was just trying to get us hyped," he said with a laugh, "but it was a little weird. Guys might come a couple yards on the field, but they don't come to the huddle. It was cool, though."
Jason Witten on his mentoring of Zeke.
"With Zeke, we've had some good conversations," Witten said. "Obviously there's high expectations, but I've been impressed. He works hard and he wants to be good.
"I don't just sit around giving him advice. You have to build a relationship where guys feel like they can talk to you and you don't judge them."
There is a whole lot more over there, so check it out, and then let us know what struck you most about Zeke’s rookie season, and where you think he can go from here.