Player of the Pine Belt: Laurel left tackle Malik Ellis
LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - You might remember another imposing offensive lineman wearing No. 67 for Laurel.
Charles Cross enters his third season with Mississippi State. But what he did in a Golden Tornadoes uniform made an impression on Malik Ellis.
“When I was like coming up in 8th grade, coming to practice, watching [Cross], I’d watch his footwork,” said Ellis, a junior left tackle. “Playing offensive line you gotta be mean, dirty. You gotta be nasty. That’s the thing about me, I like being nasty.”
Ellis is helping change the culture at Laurel.
A school with a long history of producing speedy, skill guys - it’s the big boys up front who will set the tone this season.
“It’s always good when some of your better football players are lineman because I think in this game we play, you have to win up front and Malik’s been nothing short of phenomenal for us,” said Laurel head coach Ryan Earnest. “He’s become a quiet leader for us on the field and off the field. He’s somebody that these kids, as he starts to become an upperclassman, that they can kinda look up to cause he does things the right way.”
Ellis has started every game since he was 14 years old. Now as a 6-foot-5 junior, he isn’t just a force in Jones County but is being noticed by colleges across the country.
He already holds offers from Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Colorado.
“He takes care of his business in the classroom and because of that he’s going to have an opportunity to play some major college football, I think,” Earnest said. “He’s a tremendous athlete and as he continues to gain weight and gain strength he’s only going to become an even better football player.”
“Just show my skills, show what I can do,” Ellis said. “And the goal is try to make it to where everybody else is trying to get - state championship.”
That task is a little taller this season as Laurel moves into Region 3-5A with reigning champs West Jones, Wayne County, South Jones and rival Hattiesburg.
“Top to bottom this is by far probably the toughest region in the state,” Earnest said. “Every one of our teams in our region is extremely well-coached and athletic. So it’s going to be one of those deals where even as players and coaches, we’re going to have to be very, very well-prepared week in and week out.”
The Golden Tornadoes open their season on August 27 at Meridian.
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