Jake Ellis had a boring summer.
He didn’t get to enjoy the swimming pool in his family’s backyard. He didn’t get to work out, or run around, or roughhouse with his friends.
Instead, he spent the hot days working on his upper body strength while waiting for the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left leg to heal.
Ellis, a starter on the offensive and defensive lines at Richland High last year, partially tore the ligament in his leg on the last snap of spring ball.
Never miss a local story.
A teammate was tossed into the air on a block and landed on Ellis’ leg.
Initially, he thought his entire knee had been shredded.
“It freaked me out,” he said. “I thought I was done for football forever. I didn’t think I’d be able to play this season, which meant I couldn’t play in college. So I was thinking my career would be done.”
His career isn’t over, though. He spent the summer resting his lower body, while working out on his upper body. He eventually started riding a bike in July to try and build his stamina and he was cleared for the season on Aug. 5.
“He is the heart and soul of our team,” Richland coach Mike Neidhold said. “He rallies the kids in the winter time, he is just one of those kids that everyone likes. Always has a smile on his face and is just a wonderful young man.
“When he got hurt, I was sick for two days. If there ever is a kid that deserves a high school season, it is Jake Ellis. He isn’t going to play (major) college ball, but he is going to sell his soul for Bomber football. I was sick that he would miss this great senior year of football.
“But he has rehabbed all summer — in the weight room every day. Never said poor me and he is like, ‘Let’s go get them.’ “
One reason Ellis found it easy to overcome a summer of boredom was that he had been down the injury path before.
Before his eighth grade season, Ellis broke the growth plate on his hip. He was out four months that year.
“I think it helped,” Ellis said of having the earlier injury. “It helped me realize that it is not the end of the world. That there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.”
That bright light is the football season, though initially many around him didn’t think he would be donning the green and gold this fall.
“I was heartbroken,” said Mike Ellis, Jake’s dad. “The kid has worked so hard, doing all the right things you should be doing for senior year high school football and ... it was completely heartbreaking.”
But Ellis overcame the injury thanks to the same dedication that has carried him throughout his high school career.
“He is such a hard-working kid,” his dad said. “We use to call him a lunchbox, hard hat guy. He comes and works every day.”
Ellis has hopes of playing at the next level and needs a solid senior year to make that happen. Watching from the sidelines would not have given him a chance to play in college.
“I’m relieved and excited,” he said about the upcoming season. “It’s still a bad injury, but not the worse thing in the world. It could’ve been 10 times worse. I’m just happy it wasn’t as bad as everybody thought it was.”