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From Bennett Field to NFL

LT alumnus Jake Elliott ‘13 selected by Cincinnati Bengals in fifth round, 153rd overall in the 2017 NFL draft

KANSAS+CITY%2C+MO+-+SEPTEMBER+17%3A+Kicker+Jake+Elliott+%234+of+the+Philadelphia+Eagles+kicks+a+successful+field+goal+from+the+hold+of+Donnie+Jones+%238+during+the+first+quarter+of+the+game+against+the+Kansas+City+Chiefs+at+Arrowhead+Stadium+on+September+17%2C+2017+in+Kansas+City%2C+Missouri.+%28+Photo+by+Peter+Aiken%2FGetty+Images%29
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Kicker Jake Elliott #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks a successful field goal from the hold of Donnie Jones #8 during the first quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. ( Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Kicker Jake Elliott #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks a successful field goal from the hold of Donnie Jones #8 during the first quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. ( Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Kicker Jake Elliott #4 of the Philadelphia Eagles kicks a successful field goal from the hold of Donnie Jones #8 during the first quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. ( Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Mikaela Larson, Sports Editor

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Sept. 17 was a day to be remembered forever as Jake Elliott ‘13 stepped onto the field in Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs and made his NFL debut for the Philadelphia Eagles. He went two-for-three on field goals, knocking one in from 40 yards out, and two-for-two on extra points.

If you asked Elliott freshman year what sport he’d be playing in college, you might have heard tennis or basketball, as football wasn’t even a thought in his mind until a random contest drawing put him in a field goal kicking competition.

“The backstory of how I got involved in football is pretty bizarre,” Elliott said. “I got picked out of the crowd at the pep rally before the homecoming game to participate in a field goal kicking contest. I knocked a few through and Coach [Kurt] Weinberg came up to me and told me I should consider going out for the team. I kind of brushed it off and stuck to the sports I knew.”

At the time of the contest, tennis was a year round commitment between club and high school, varsity football coach Jason Brauer said. It was not until Elliott’s junior year that he began playing football for LT.

“That next summer before his junior year we were practicing on the turf and were really having a hard time even making an extra point,” Brauer said. “Coach [Mark] Kropke came up to me in the middle of the practice and said ‘Jake is over practicing tennis right now. Why don’t you go give it one more shot to get him out here?’ ”

Since tennis was a high school spring sport, varsity tennis coach Bill Wham had no problem with Elliott electing to play football in the fall.

“Early in the year he would bring a bag of [footballs] to practice and we would have tennis guys shag them,” Wham said. “So I knew he could kick but I didn’t know he was serious about it until they asked him to come over and actually try it.”

In his short, two season high school career, Elliott quickly rose to become one of the best kickers in the state as well as the country, being named National Underclassman of the Year at the kicking position at the end of his junior season, Brauer said.

“[Elliott] spent most practices working by himself perfecting his craft,” he said. “He made back to back field goals at the buzzer to win us two football games. The first was our Homecoming game of the 2011 season when Matthew Harris was able to block a punt and recover the ball at the 35 yard line with a two or three seconds left in the game. Coach Weinberg opted to give Jake a shot and he went out and nailed a 52-yard field goal at the buzzer to win the game. Jake followed this up the next week with a 47-yard field goal at the buzzer to beat York and without either of these made field goals we would have missed the playoffs.”

On his birthday, Elliott got the offer to kick at the University of Memphis and accepted that same day. His time as a Tiger led to national recognition, receiving a variety of awards including USA Today First Team All-American and four-time First Team All-Conference for the American Conference.

“I realized pro football was a possibility after my junior season at Memphis when I was selected as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award and got a chance to go down and get honored at the College Football Hall of Fame,” Elliott said. “Standing around all the stars of college football was the moment I realized I could have a special opportunity.”

Draft day rolled around and there was a feeling of excitement, stress and nerves as Elliott was surrounded by friends and family, waiting for the elusive call.

“When I got that call my heart sank through,” Elliott said. “[It was] probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life. Not knowing your fate and what life has in store going forward [but then to hear the] phone ringing was incredible.”

On April 30, 2017, Elliott was officially a Cincinnati Bengal, though the challenge was just beginning. There were two kickers throughout the preseason fighting for one spot of the 53-man roster and Elliott failed to beat out veteran Randy Bullock.

“I talked to Jake throughout camp and every time he said the competition between him and Bullock was very intense,” Brauer said. “Everything was charted and evaluated throughout practice and games.  He was obviously disappointed to be assigned to the practice squad but felt confident he would get his shot in the NFL sooner rather than later.”

Soon came quite quickly as on Sept. 12 Elliott was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles after their kicker, Caleb Sturgis, was put on the injury reserve.

“He knew he would either stay or go quickly and that is exactly what happened,” Wham said. “He was gone in basically two days and now is a starting kicker for the Eagles. I knew and he knew he’d be able to make it because he is extremely competitive in everything he does. Jake is focused 99-percent of the time and he has the mental aptitude and ability to embrace the moment and win a game if it depends on him.”

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The voice of Lyons Township students for more than 100 years
From Bennett Field to NFL