Forget football, let’s talk urban planning.
“As long as they stay like the main buildings at College and Allen, they’re kind of a staple,” said Keaton Ellis of Penn State Safety and State College recently, noting Downtown State College’s new affinity for high-rise buildings. “As long as they keep these intact. I understand why they do it. You have to build up, especially with all the students.”
However, Ellis is now ready to talk football and laughs as he tries to uncover the intricacies of the American company.
It certainly feels like yesterday when Ellis made the journey from Memorial Field to Beaver Stadium, but it seems like yesterday again that The Diner, let alone more than a few other venues, have closed their doors . Change is part of life in any city, but growing up somewhere and then going to college in the same city is unique. Most college football players – heck most people – go somewhere else. For Ellis, college was in some ways an extension of high school. The relationships that may have fallen by the wayside are still part of his everyday life.
If anything, it’s kind of nice, there you’re playing at Beaver Stadium, with some of your former high school teammates still cheering for you in the stands or even the sidelines. [Paging all the Freibergs. Tommy a walk-on at Penn State, Drew Freiberg one of the best three-point shooters in college basketball.]
“It’s actually pretty cool,” Ellis said. “Just being able to keep some relationships stable throughout my years here, it’s been great to have that extra support system for me and just to be able to check on people and see how they’re doing , when otherwise I might not be able to . To be able to see friends and students I knew in high school is amazing. Just to keep and check in those connections and relationships with these people, and they always have them, everywhere I go. Whenever I see someone who went to school with him, they always show their support. It was cool.”
Of course, when Ellis chose a final year of eligibility, that choice had a unique dynamic. Surely he would like to improve his drafting portfolio, surely he would like to continue his education and continue his college experiences. They don’t just let these things go. But man, he’s been at state college a long time. Many city dwellers grew up with Happy Valley, but almost everyone feels the urge to settle elsewhere. Go your own way.
So leave the nest? Well, it’s not like Ellis lives at home with his family. But a guy might want to move on at some point.
“It was definitely a thought,” Ellis said with a smile and a laugh. “Obviously I’ve traveled and visited places, but calling another place home base, you know, is something I’ve wanted to do — I love state college, but you know it’s always going to come to that. I’m sure a lot of people can understand that. Lots of friends who would just tell me, “I just had to get out of here,” or if they decided not to go to Penn State, or if they went to Penn State and/or graduated, and so on. So yes, there was definitely a thought.”
For now, however, Ellis isn’t ready to go, and returning to Penn State for another season gives the Nittany Lions all the more experience at a defensive backcourt looking to replace veteran experience. Of course, with the departures of Jonathan Sutherland and Ji’Ayir Brown, Ellis will need to assume even more of a leadership role.
And that’s fine with him.
“I want to be a leader on this team,” Ellis said. “Talking to the coaches about just setting a standard for what leadership is. Everyone is different so it doesn’t have to look like someone else and how they guide you. You and I feel that I will set the standard and lead by example by working on my business. I’m just trying to gain the respect of everyone in the program and only concern myself with caring for everyone. Make sure everyone is taken care of and hold people accountable. You have to hold yourself accountable for that.”
On the pitch, this is Ellis’ last chance to make a lifelong dream come true. Maybe growing up at state college makes you ready to finally start your own business, but for a kid who grew up in the shadow of Beaver Stadium, it’s hard to ignore the feeling when stepping onto that field in that blue and white goes . One day you’re in the stands, the next on the field. It comes and goes in a jiffy.
So sure, maybe you’re ready for what’s next, but that doesn’t make letting go any easier.
Not to mention the whole attempt to make football your full-time job [paying] Work.
“I feel like I played really good ball last year,” said Ellis, who set career bests in tackles and passes defended last season. “It’s only going up from here, so I really wanted to show off my great playing skills and make game-changing plays. That’s the biggest thing. I’ve been consistent my whole career and just wanted to prove to the world that I can make the big game and change the game. At the end of the day I will do everything to make our team win football games. This is really a big thing for me. I want to win soccer games.”
No matter how long Ellis extends his career, he knows Penn State’s days are numbered. Somewhere there is a younger Keaton Ellis growing up in the shadow of Beaver Stadium wondering what it would be like to play on that field.
And one day this boy will do exactly what Ellis did and make that dream a reality.
“I’m just trying to appreciate every moment,” Ellis said.