Dunham glad Josh Ellis back on football field

When he came to The Dunham School as head football coach three years ago, Guy Mistretta heard about an athlete who gave up football to focus on baseball.

Mistretta tried for two years to get Josh Ellis to come back to football. Ellis made the first move and approached Mistretta last spring.

Returning to football at Dunham for the first time since middle school, the senior safety-wide receiver has made all the right moves.

In Friday’s 27-24 victory over District 6-2A preseason favorite East Feliciana, it was Ellis who stepped in front of a receiver on fourth down and intercepted the pass in the closing seconds.

Ellis came down with the ball out-of-bounds, but it didn’t matter. He had just clinched the third straight win for the Tigers (3-1, 1-0), who travel to Northeast (2-2, 0-0) for another 6-2A game Friday.

“I played OK defensively,” Ellis said of the EFHS win. “I’m still learning. I had to get used to contact again. I had to learn the system on offense and defense.

“I had to get used to catching the ball again. And I had to learn how to tackle.”

The move back to football made sense in a lot of ways for the 6-foot-3, 165-pound Ellis. His older brother, Collin, is a former Dunham star who is a starting linebacker for Northwestern University.

Earlier this season, Collin Ellis was voted the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of Week after returning two interceptions for touchdowns in Northwestern’s season-opening win over California.

But it was tough, nonetheless. Ellis’ father, Greg, committed suicide before his ninth-grade year. Greg Ellis was a huge supporter of Dunham’s football program and never missed a game.

“I’m not really sure if that (father’s dfeath) had anything to do with me not playing football,” Ellis said. “I wanted to focus on baseball. It may have been subconscious. It’s definitely been hard because I was used to my dad being at all my games.

“I went through times when I didn’t want to be around people. There are so many people at this school who helped and supported us, along with my dad’s friends. It took time. Now, I just remember all the good times I had with him, and I know he’s watching me.”

And last week, Collin Ellis, also got to watch his brother play, too, taking advantage of an open date to fly home for a surprise visit and a Friday game.

“It was awesome,” Collin Ellis said. “Josh played so well and so did the team. He’s not afraid to come up and hit people, and he was all over the field.

“To tell you the truth, he’s a better athlete than me. He was the youngest and when we were little, he always got pushed harder to keep up with us. We never made it easy on him, and I think it’s paying (off).”

To date, Ellis has 17 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception. He also has 11 catches for 242 yards and three touchdowns. Ellis has also returned six kickoffs for 158 yards.

“I knew he was a good athlete, and I felt like he could contribute for us,” Mistretta said. “Right now, Josh is in on more plays than anyone else on the team. He plays offense, defense and on every special teams unit we have.

“The thing that impresses me the most is how dog gone fast he is. He’s a tall, rangy guy who covers a lot of ground. I wish we had him for another year.”

Both Mistretta and Collin Ellis said Josh Ellis can play college football. Ellis, also an all-district left fielder, would welcome the opportunity to play either sport at the next level.

Ellis also likes to go deer or duck hunting when time allows. College scholarships and animal prey take a back seat to a new objective — helping Dunham claim football victories.

“We keep getting better as a team,” Ellis said. “I’d like to see us win a district title and go for a state title. I want us to have the best season we can.”