Bombers QB Elliott's first love wasn't football

New Bombers starting QB Joey Elliott had dreams of playing in the MLB or the NBA when he was...

New Bombers starting QB Joey Elliott had dreams of playing in the MLB or the NBA when he was younger and didn't start playing football until the eighth grade. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI AGENCY FILES)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:31 PM ET

WINNIPEG - When he was growing up, Joey Elliott had dreams of playing Major League Baseball or perhaps advancing to the NBA.

 

In fact, the man who will start at quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday didn’t even start playing football back home in Indiana until the eighth grade.

Talk about a late bloomer.

“I did all of the punt-pass-and-kick things, went to (football) camps when I was in sixth grade and played backyard football but I never really got into it,” said Elliott. “I did travel baseball and that was my thing. I was a basketball player and didn’t know how tall I was going to be. My (older) brother (Aaron) was 6-foot-7, so I didn’t know if I was going to do baseball or basketball. The reason I am the athlete I am today is because of my older brother, playing against him and all of his friends.”

That big growth spurt never came and things changed during Elliott’s teenage years.

“In that eighth-grade year, I was the backup to my best friend,” said Elliott. “He also played middle linebacker and by the second half of the season, he played defence only and I took over.”

Elliott hasn’t turned back since, progressing nicely through high school and passing on a chance to play college baseball to accept a football scholarship at Purdue University.

After playing second fiddle to future NFLer Curtis Painter, Elliott finally got his shot to start full-time as a senior and eventually parlayed that into a shot in the CFL, joining the Blue Bombers in 2010.

Elliott’s father John is a high school football coach but never actually coached his son’s team.

In fact, the two schools were rivals.

“He was a defensive mind and it was kind of tough,” said Elliott. “He didn’t like going through it, but I kind of liked it, going into the game with a chip on my shoulder. I loved when we could compete and beat him.

“We beat them the first game on homecoming at their place and then they knocked us out my senior year. They got the best of us in the end.”

Elliott found out Saturday afternoon that he would be starting and with a day to reflect, the third-year pro clearly had some time to think about what the moment means to him — especially after his long road back from a knee injury that cost him most of last season.

“There’s a lot of people who have believed in me,” said Elliott, 26. “Coming off a torn ACL injury and to be able to come back and have an opportunity to start, you really find out when you go through a serious injury, you find out who your true fans are and who your true backers are.”

When Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice talked about Elliott earlier this week, he used the words “confident” and “moxie,” qualities that are important for a quarterback.

“He’s more vocal than a lot of quarterbacks and will tell you how he wants it done and as a receiver you respect that,” said Blue Bombers receiver Terrence Edwards. “He’s always been a vocal guy. He wants you to execute the plays as well as he’s going to execute them. He wants perfection. I think he’s going to do a tremendous job.”

Although Elliott has made only two CFL starts (both at the end of the 2010 season), offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton isn’t planning on scaling back the playbook this week.

“(Elliott) is not afraid to put (the football) in a tight spot and I’ve got to be sure he puts

it in the right tight spot,” said Crowton. “He’s an aggressive, upbeat guy that’s anxious for a chance. There’s a lot of energy there and he’s got an opportunity to come out there and do some good things.” 


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