MOBILE, Ala. — Getting pulled off the tennis courts at Lyons Township High School one day during his junior year has proved to be a pretty big moment in the life of Jake Elliott.
The Western Springs native is kicking for the South team at the Senior Bowl coming off an impressive career at Memphis.
All for someone that didn’t begin playing football until that junior year at Lyons.
“I was a big tennis player in high school. I was one of those kids that played every sport growing up and messed around playing football with my friends but never actually played organized (football),” Elliott said following Senior Bowl practice this week. “One of my buddies on the football team mentioned to the coach a couple weeks before my junior season started that I could kick. They were looking for a kicker and grabbed me off the tennis courts one day.”
The sports may seem as different as, well, football and tennis, but because of his unique role on a football team, Elliott is able to grab from his tennis days.
“As a kicker especially, the mental side of it, you’re kind of just on an island out there by yourself,” he said. “To be as mentally strong as I feel I am, I feel all that I owe to playing tennis my whole life.”
Elliott left Memphis as the school's record-holder for longest field goal (56 yards) and most consecutive extra points made. He also kicked four of the five longest field goals in school history. Elliott is a fan of former Bear Robbie Gould, but his time with the Tigers afforded him a good connection in the kicking business — Stephen Gostkowski.
“He was a Memphis guy, so he came back a couple summers and I got to work with him. He’s a good friend, a great guy that I can lean on,” Elliott said. “I’ll send him a couple texts every once in a while if I have any questions. If he can offer any guidance that’s much appreciated. If I feel uncomfortable or unsure about any situation, I can send him a message.”
As one of the top kickers in the country, Elliott hopes to prove his accuracy to coaches and evaluators in Mobile, as well as his leg strength, which may not be obvious for someone who measured in at 5-foot-9 1/2 and 166 pounds.
“I feel I’m an extremely accurate kicker and that’ll showcase itself out here,” Elliott said. “A lot of guys see me and question my size and [think], ‘Maybe he doesn’t have the power,’ but I feel that’s going to be showcased as well.”
Elliott recognizes the unique trajectory that has landed him in front of the NFL world this week, showing off his leg.
"To come on this late and end up on this stage is really special for me," he said. "Even getting to play in college was special at that time. Gradually building to be here is a great opportunity."