ricane swept through. He said his family is okay now, bonding together and helping one another, so it has allowed him to focus on football. Elliott admitted he’s somewhat anxious to see the destruction firsthand.
“They just say it’s devastated,” Elliott said. “It hits close to home because it is my home, but I still haven’t seen it with my own eyes, so I feel like when I do see it, it’s going to hurt even more on the inside.”
Injuries to the Bucs secondary have meant opportunity for Elliott. In last week’s win against Carolina, he played 94 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Included in that was his first NFL interception, a play that might have been one of the game’s most important.
With the Bucs leading 10-7 and Carolina driving toward the red zone inside two minutes before halftime, Elliott picked off Cam Newton and returned it 50 yards to the Carolina 32. That set up a touchdown and 17-7 halftime lead for Tampa Bay.
“He came in here as kind of an unheralded guy,” defensive coordinator Mark Duffner said. “He just made noise with his actions.”
Elliott played last week’s game wearing custom-made “My cleats, my cause” cleats that had his late uncle Cager Wells’ Panama City-based outreach ministry, The Heart of Cager Foundation, on one shoe and “Panama City” on the other.
Even though Elliott is fighting for playing time each week — hoping to make an impression when he gets the chance — he said the hurricane put his own struggles in perspective.
“It’s something that, you know, it makes you think, ‘Man, I could have it a lot harder,’ ” Elliott said. “Because no matter what I’m going through, when I’m looking at what other people are going through back home, sleeping in tents outside of their houses and they have nothing, I can’t complain about anything. If anything, I should do my best to help them out back home.”
Elliott said he helped with a school supplies drive to aid his old high school, and he participated in the Bucs’ donation drive for Hurricane Michael victims on Oct. 30. That was he same week that he was cut from the roster, added back to the practice squad and went back on the roster.
After playing just six snaps over the first eight weeks of the season, Elliott has seen his role increase. This is his third season with the Bucs, though he has spent a lot of that time moving back and forth between the active roster and the practice squad. But players such as Elliott are more important now than ever, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said.
“You better have guys that you’ve been working with, whether it’s on and off your roster, or guys that have just been hanging in there biding their time on you practice squad,” Koetter said. “In a perfect world, your 10 guys on a practice squad are guys that you eventually want to put in a game, and that’s worked out well for us so far this year.”
Elliott played 66 snaps Sunday and just three passes were completed against him. He graded out as a 90 overall, the best grade on the defense. Even as the secondary gets players back from injury, that kind of performance will keep Elliott in the mix for playing time.
“No matter how you got here, it’s really what you do when you get here,” Elliott said. “You have to build that trust with the coaches and with the teammates, and it’s all a part of God’s plan. He’s the reason I’m here today.”