It took until the fourth round for the 49ers to draft a wide receiver, and they got a basketball player in the process. Bruce Ellington isn’t just one of the many NFL athletes who played basketball in high school, he started at point guard for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
At first glance, Ellington can do it all. He mostly played quarterback in high school. Along with leading the Gamecocks in every receiving category, he also threw a nine-yard scoring pass and rushed a few times for 14 yards this past season. He was the co-recipient of the team’s Everyday Attitude & Hustle Award, and was named both First-Team and All-Academic All-SEC in 2013.
Ellington chatted with a few reporters (Matt Barrows, Chris Biderman, Taylor Price and myself) outside the media trailer for a few minutes. Here’s the full transcript:
Q: Enjoying this hot weather?
BE: It’s hot in South Carolina but this weather is not as humid as in South Carolina.
Q: What are your first impressions after being here a little while?
BE: I’m enjoying it. Having a good time. I see the guys around me like to work, and that’s what I like, so I’ll be out here working hard and having a good time.
Q: Have you talked at all with Colin Kaepernick?
BE: He’s a normal type of guy. If he sees you, he’ll say “what’s up” to you, talk to you, “good catch.” I’ll tell him “good pass.” Stuff like that. We’re out here trying to get better, that’s the good thing about it. A quarterback like him, he’s a leader. He’s stepping up in that role. He’s a great quarterback.
Q: Have you caught passes from him yet?
BE: Yeah, I caught one of them. Threw me backwards, man. He’s got a cannon.
Q: How are your fingers?
BE: My hands are good. He can throw, but I can catch too. It’s all about getting that chemistry down pat.
Q: And your basketball experience has probably helped you, catching passes in tight quarters, things like that.
BE: Yes sir. I’m done with basketball, but it helps a lot. It helps you go up and get the ball, catch it over tall guys, get rebounds over tall guys.
Q: What percentage of time did you spend in the slot at South Carolina?
BE: Most of the time I played slot. I’d say my second year I was mostly outside, but my first and third year I played mostly slot.
Q: When you look at a guy like Vernon Davis, and the possibility of lining up at the same time, giving safeties and defenses the option of who to cover, what came to mind when you knew you were playing with him?
BE: A lot. I can learn from him. He’s a great receiver. Just being in the slot, I can learn from him and the things he does and try to get better.
Q: It seemed like you guys at South Carolina require the slot receiver to do a lot of blocking. Is that something that came naturally to you?
BE: I wouldn’t say that, because coming through high school I played quarterback. I played receiver my freshman year of high school, but I was an outside receiver. I had to adjust to it, get a little stronger. These guys are big so I’ve got to get a lot bigger. I think it’ll come natural, holding my block. With the great backs that we have, once you get a little block for them they can get by and we’ll be alright.
Q: Have you chosen a number yet?
BE: No sir, I haven’t chosen a number. I’ve got (No.) 3 right now, but receivers can’t have single digit numbers so I haven’t thought of which one I want right now.
Q: You took part in some running plays in college, is that the type of versatility something you to bring to this team as well?
BE: Yes sir. Those sweeps, those quick passes to the slot guy that can get the ball and make stuff happen.
Q: There’s another ex-quarterback, Anquan Boldin, on this team. Is that a situation where you cede the throws to the veteran, or will you look to throw a pass or two?
BE: That’d be fun. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to go out there and do it.
Q: What’s it been like getting back together with Marcus Lattimore? How soon after the draft did he reach out to you?
BE: Actually, I got a new number and he was texting the wrong number. I got his number from our quarterback, Dylan (Thompson). I texted him and he was like, “Man, I was texting the wrong number the whole time.” It’s just like old times, man. Hanging out, working hard and having fun.
Q: You know his story, what’s he been doing out there on the practice field? How do you feel about the way he’s coming back?
BE: Since college I’ve known Marcus was a hard worker. Once he gets to the NFL it was just going to transition over. He’s been doing the same things he’s was doing (at South Carolina), trying to be the best he can be.
Q: Does he look good?
BE: Yeah, he looks good. (laughs)
Q: Do they still have that Nerf hoop set up in the locker room?
BE: Oh yeah, they still got it. I get up on there every now and then.
Q: Have you taken it over yet?
BE: Nah, I haven’t taken it over yet. I talk a little trash. They didn’t know I played basketball when I talked trash. Then they were like, “Oh, you do play basketball.” I’m still talking a little trash.
Q: Does basketball on the hardwood translate to the Nerf hoop, though?
BE: It’s smaller, you’ve got to get adjusted to it. But I still think I can beat them guys.
Q: You won a hustle award at South Carolina. What was that award and what went into that?
BE: Just coming out every day and working hard. Being in shape, conditioning. I feel like I can run all day when it comes to playing football, because I’m in basketball shape. Basketball and football are my life, so I feel like I’m in good shape. Just going as hard as I can every play, no matter what it is, whatever coaches ask me to do, just go out there and do it.
Q: Was the Spring the toughest time to balance both of those, because you had Spring practice?
BE: When I came out for basketball, they asked me to just do little drills, they didn’t ask me to go all out. Just do one-on-ones, play a little bit with the team.
Q: When was the moment that it clicked that football was the sport you were going to go with?
BE: I’d probably say my second year playing. I thought football was my calling. I prayed on it and asked God what I should do, because it was a tough decision. I love basketball, but I just love to compete. So I prayed on it and talked to my mom and my family. We made a decision that football was what I wanted to do.