Kevin Ellison did not grow up a Georgia Tech fan. For that matter Ellison did not grow up as a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, either.
That may make the Georgia Southern quarterback somewhat of an anomaly in football mad Georgia, but Ellison just smiles and shrugs.
“Growing up I didn’t follow football that much,” Ellison said. “I was always outside playing with my friends trying to make our own football atmosphere.
Ellison was an outstanding point guard in basketball at Habersham Central, but it was as an option quarterback he caught the eye of former coach Jeff Monken.
Despite leaving high school ranked 10th behind Herschel Walker on the all-time state touchdown list with 83 along with 5,100 yards rushing Ellison – who also passed for 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career – came to the Eagles with a one-star rating by the scouting services.
After a redshirt freshman year Ellison has been one of Georgia Southern’s most valuable players the last four seasons and at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta he gets one last shot at one of the state’s two Power 5 teams.
The Eagles (3-2) will be a 10-point underdog when they face Georgia Tech (3-3) in a matchup of two teams that have combined to lose five straight games after both started 3-0.
“It would be a big deal for the entire university if we won this game,” Ellison said. “Georgia Tech is an in-state rival, there’s not that many (FBS) teams in Georgia.
“As a player it’s very exciting to play an in-state rival like Georgia Tech,” Ellison said. “It’s going to be a different type of competition.
“We’re going to have to play our tails off. Paul Johnson does a great job with those guys.”
Ellison will finish his career at Georgia Southern as one of the school’s most productive offensive players.
He is currently the active career rushing leader among FBS quarterbacks with 2,942 yards, and he has passed for another 2,709. He has 31 touchdowns rushing, and 13 passing have completed 178 passes on 336 attempts with 11 interceptions.
Those numbers are good enough to rank him 10th on the all-time rushing list, and he is currently tied with Jaybo Shaw for fifth-place on the career passing yardage list. He is tied with Lee Chapple for 10th on the career touchdown passes rankings. His 5,651 yards total offense is 283 behind fifth-place Jayson Foster.
The only number, however, that means anything to Ellison is those that fall under the “W” column.
Georgia Southern has one win against a Power 5 conference team having beat Florida when Ellison was a freshman starting in place of Jerrick McKinnon who had to play slotback due to an injury.
However, the Eagles have come tantalizingly close as they lost to Georgia, 17-14, in overtime last year and to Tech, 42-38, two years ago when the Jackets scored with 23 seconds to play. They also lost to N.C. State, 24-23, in 2014 when the Wolfpack scored with 1:37 on the clock.
“It would be great to have on your resume that you beat an ACC team and beat Florida a couple of years ago,” Ellison said. “It would be good to say we did that.”
Ellison and the Eagles are coming off a frustrating loss against Arkansas State where they could manage only a field goal out of five turnovers losing, 27-26, when the Red Wolves scored with nine seconds to play.
“It’s frustrating, it’s always frustrating when you lose,” Ellison said, “but that’s the game of football.
“Things happen sometimes, and you have to learn, and then put it behind you and focus on your next opponent.”
Ellison had one of the top performances of his career against Tech when he rushed for 109 yards on nine carries and was 7-for-10 passing for another 164 yards as the Eagles rallied from a 35-10 halftime deficit to take a 38-35 lead only to see the Jackets pull it out.
“My five years at Georgia Southern has been the best time of my life other than when my kids were born,” Ellison said. “It’s been a great place and all the love and support you get from the fans and coaches is unbelievable.”
Ellison became a father for the second time a month ago when Carter was born joining older brother Cooper.
“My responsibility level went up very, very high,” Ellison said. “I put those two ahead of anything. I just want to be sure I’m doing everything to my full potential for them.”