By: Steve Brand
MONROVIA, Calif. — Ellis McCarthy is described as one of the most mild-mannered, polite, friendly students at Monrovia (Calif.). Short of helping little old ladies cross the street, there is only one way you’d recognize that he’s a football player.
Ellis McCarthy is 6-foot-4 and weighs 305 pounds.
And about that “Mr. Nice Guy” image: Forget it when he steps on to the football field. Then, the senior who has been clocked at an eye-popping 4.9 seconds for 40 yards is all business and there are far better places to be on Friday night than on the opposing line trying to stop the nation’s No. 7 overall recruit in the Class of 2012.
McCarthy said he learned early on what was the most fun part flying around the field from his defensive end or tackle position.
“My very first play as a freshman on the varsity, I sacked the quarterback,” recalls the Wildcats standout who is just now back to 100 percent after suffering a knee strain in the second game of the season. He had to miss the next five games before returning part-time for the second Rio Hondo League game of the season. “I discovered very early that it was really fun beating up on the (opponents’) line. I just keep pounding on them until they lose the desire to play.”
Some Nice Guy.
“No, he’s really humble and soft-spoken — off the field,” swears coach Ryan Maddox, who is in his 13th year at the helm of the Wildcats and doesn’t hesitate to say all-in-all, he’s never seen a better high school defensive lineman. “Ellis’ mobility, size, speed, strength … he really has it all. That 4.9 is legit and the thing is he holds his speed 15 yards down the field (or up the field while chasing panicked quarterbacks). He’s 6-4, 305 but he looks like he weighs 285 because he is quick and athletic.”
“His uniqueness is his explosion,” said Maddox. “Everyone noticed it at the combines. He likes to fly around and now they just double- and triple-team him. He can stay low and maintain his speed. And once he stops growing…”
Maddox lets one’s mind ponder the possibilities as Pac-12 schools like Oregon, Cal, USC, Washington and UCLA come courting while powerhouses like Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan and Notre Dame hope against hope to pry him off the West Coast.
OK, look at the numbers. Because he’s missed five regular-season games he’s a bit behind the pace of the 15 sacks he recorded a year ago. He can bench press 355 pounds and he has long arms that can throw opposing linemen to the around quickly.
Maddox says the scary part is he thinks McCarthy is still growing since he came in to the public school in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles at 6-1, 215 before returning at 6-2, 245 as a sophomore and then 6-4, 295 last year.
And he hasn’t even turned 18 yet.
McCarthy hasn’t decided where he wants to play in
Still another significant number to the colleges is 3.1 — his cumulative grade point average. In other words, he’s the complete package whom Maddox says will in all likelihood continue his education at a West Coast school when he decides in January after taking all of his trips.
Because of the injury to their star player who also lines up at tight end, the Wildcats lost three straight games before turning it around and winning three straight. The last two victories were in league play and the margin was 95-2. That’s important to McCarthy because he’s fully aware that the Wildcats have now won 19 straight league games and he’s hoping that by tagging on another three to close out the regular-season, Monrovia can position itself for a run at defending its California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Mid-Valley Division title.
“We don’t want to be known as the team that snapped that streak,” says McCarthy. “Since we’ve already lost three games this year we don’t want to lose any more. I can tell you one thing, no team is going to work any harder than we do. Losing those games has really helped us focus just like it did last year.”
Monrovia lost two of first three games a year ago and finished with a 10-game winning streak. That meant that all of the city of Monrovia was keeping an eye on the hill behind the school on Friday night. On that rise in the San Gabriel Mountains, students long ago etched a large “M” which is brightly illuminated on Friday night. When the Wildcats win, the legs of the “M” are not lighted, leaving a large “V” for victory.
But that was last year and just getting back on the field a couple weeks ago was good therapy for McCarthy, who had to watch games from the sidelines, becoming the world’s largest cheerleader.
“I hated it,” McCarthy said. “It’s the first time in my life I couldn’t play. I couldn’t even practice so I’d go in the weight room and bike while everyone one else got to practice. In the end I hope it makes me stronger. I know it has made me want to play more, given me a greater appreciation of the game. I’d rather not sit any more and I’m very glad it was just a minor injury.”
So is Maddox.
“He’s never had that awkward stage so many high school kids have,” said the coach. “Once he goes against players his own size, his quickness will really help. He loves all of the sports and played basketball until last year when he decided to focus on football.
“He has great family support, too.”
His father Edward and mother Libbie both graduated from Monrovia High and although there was a lot of interest from Bishop Amat High, a parochial school in nearby La Puente, in the end he knew he’d be more comfortable attending Monrovia with his lifelong friends.
“That’s one of the things I really like doing, just being with my friends,” says McCarthy. “We like to go get something to eat.”
You imagine all-you-can-eat restaurant managers swooning when he walks in, but that’s far from the case.
“I’ll usually eat like three hamburgers while I’m hanging out, I’m not a big eater,” he says laughing, realizing that it’s all relative.
Besides, since he’s not on the field terrorizing opposing players, he’s just out to have some fun and be friendly.