Little Lions coach Matt Lintal wasn’t surprised.
He’s known for years about the innate athleticism of rising junior defensive back Keaton Ellis. And he’s been in contact with the Penn State football staff about the unique homegrown talent for quite some time. So, when Ellis impressed the Nittany Lions’ staff and earned a scholarship offer following a camp Friday, Lintal was far from shocked when Ellis called to share the good news.
“Honestly, I wasn’t surprised,” Lintal reiterated. “I was really thrilled and excited that Penn State had the same evaluation of that young man as I did and our staff has.”
Ellis is the first State College player to earn a Penn State football scholarship offer since the Class of 2010’s Alex Kenney, a three-time all-state football athlete who earned a four-star recruiting evaluation.
“Incredibly blessed to have received an offer,” Ellis wrote on Twitter.
Ellis also boasts offers from Buffalo and Syracuse. He is not yet rated by most of the national recruiting sites — such as ESPN, 247 and Scout — but it’s likely he won’t remain off the radar for much longer.
As a sophomore for the Little Lions last season, Ellis was a triple threat as a receiver, defensive back and returner. On defense, he collected 32 tackles, nine passes defended, one fumble recovery and one tackle for loss. On offense, he finished with 19 carries for 186 yards to go along with two catches for 16 yards. And, on special teams, he had eight punt returns for 111 yards and a kick return for 15 yards.
But it’s his ability at cornerback that has caught the attention of Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry.
“You add to the fact that he can go lock guys down on the perimeter and do that with a 6-foot frame that’s continuing to grow, and that’s really what makes him special,” Lintal said. “He’s a kid with great confidence — not arrogance — and he’s a guy we’ve asked to do a lot of different things.
“We had him out playing man-to-man on four-star wide receivers. We had him out playing safety and being an extra guy to get in the box. He’s a kid that will stick his nose in there to make a tackle but can also cover and play in space.”
Lintal said he plans to utilize Ellis on both sides of the ball even more this upcoming season. So more scholarship offers are sure to follow for the local athlete, who also competes in track and basketball.