Kicker El­liott of Ea­gles rel­ishes re­turn to Mem­phis

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - Evan Barnes Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Jake El­liott’s 2018 al­ready got off to a great start by help­ing the Philadel­phia Ea­gles win the Su­per Bowl in his rookie year

On Fri­day, the for­mer Mem­phis kicker added an­other high­light to his year by win­ning the Main Event at the Tigers’ spring game. As one of the Tigers’ guest coaches, his team pre­vailed 7-3 over a team coached by fel­low alum DeAn­gelo Williams.

It was one of his first trips back to Mem­phis since win­ning the Su­per Bowl, and as El­liott stayed and signed au­to­graphs fol­low­ing the spring game, he mar­veled at how fast life had changed since leav­ing the Tigers as its all-time lead­ing scorer.

“The last few months have been hec­tic get­ting all the re­quests from me­dia,” El­liott said, “It’s been great to take a step back and en­joy and re­flect on that first year in the NFL.”

It was a rookie year that al­most didn’t hap­pen. Af­ter leav­ing Mem­phis as the pro­gram’s all-time lead­ing scorer, El­liott was drafted in the fifth round by the Cincin­nati Ben­gals but was waived a week be­fore the sea­son.

Ten days later, the Ea­gles signed him

off the Ben­gals’ prac­tice squad later and made his de­but against Kansas City on Septem­ber 17. The un­cer­tainty af­ter be­ing cut, how­ever, stayed with him and served as mo­ti­va­tion.

“That was a tough time for sure,” El­liott said about be­ing waived. “Randy (Bul­lock) had a heck of a camp/pre­sea­son so hats off to him. I had a feel­ing that both of us would be the 32 kick­ers in the league this year. Hav­ing that chance as early as Week 2 was def­i­nitely nice be­cause I didn’t know when that op­por­tu­nity was go­ing to come.”

El­liott went on to set three NFL rookie records, in­clud­ing the long­est field goal by a rookie (61 yards) and four Ea­gles records. Then came the Su­per Bowl when he faced men­tor and fel­low Tiger alum Stephen Gostkowski of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

El­liott out­du­eled Gostkowski by mak­ing three field goals, in­clud­ing a 46-yard at­tempt to set a Su­per Bowl rookie record. Even though El­liott won the game, he was hap­pier to be a part of a mo­ment that put Mem­phis in the spot­light.

“It was pretty cool es­pe­cially for brag­ging rights across col­lege foot­ball and the kicker com­mu­nity,” El­liott said, “Ob­vi­ously watch­ing (Gostkowski) over the years and be­ing able to look af­ter what he’s done and learn from him as much as I did, it was pretty fun.”

Win­ning the Main Event at the Tigers’ spring game was just ex­tra ic­ing. El­liott and Williams traded trash talk on Twit­ter, and while Williams kept it up at the Lib­erty Bowl, El­liott got the last laugh.

Just an­other notch in El­liott’s whirl­wind year since be­ing drafted and he was happy it came at a place where he made plenty of mem­o­ries and could see how the Tigers’ for­tunes have mir­rored his own.

“See­ing all the fa­mil­iar faces and look­ing where this pro­gram has gone since I came here, it’s re­ally im­pres­sive and to be a part of it is re­ally spe­cial,” El­liott said.

GETTY IMAGES

Jake El­liott of the Ea­gles cel­e­brates af­ter de­feat­ing the Pa­tri­ots in Su­per Bowl LII in Min­neapo­lis.

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