Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott found out first-hand what it’s like to be a coach.
He jumped from group to group on Thursday morning, giving a piece of advice and breaking a huddle with the hundreds of kids who showed up to his two-day ProCamp presented by SunnyD at Grand Prairie High School.
“It’s definitely fun to do my first camp as a pro. I’m having a great time out here with the kids,” Elliott said. “Teaching them some football, but really teaching them how to have fun.”
Asked the difference between playing and coaching, Elliott smiled and said: “Definitely having a blast, but I think it’s more tiring being a coach than a player.”
The camp, which was for first- through eighth-graders, cost $249. Along with football instruction from Elliott and other area coaches, campers received an autograph from Elliott, a team photo with him and a T-shirt.
One camper traveled from as far as Las Cruces, N.M., to take part.
“It’s been awesome hanging out with Zeke,” 10-year-old Aidan Snow said. “There are really no words for it.”
Elliott burst onto the NFL scene last season after the Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State.
Elliott, who turns 22 next month, finished his rookie season with a league-leading 1,631 rushing yards and 15 TDs on 322 carries. He averaged 5.1 yards a carry in earning first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.
Elliott, who topped the 100-yard rushing mark in seven of 15 regular season starts, is up for an ESPY as the “Best NFL Player.” He’ll be attending the awards show next month.
Elliott didn’t seem overly optimistic about giving an acceptance speech.
“I don’t know, man,” Elliott said. “Got some great quarterbacks in there.”
But Elliott certainly took center stage at his camp. The groups were broken down by age group by his high school team (the Bombers), his college team (the Buckeyes) and his pro team (the Cowboys).
Elliott appreciated that touch, and raved about his football coaches growing up keeping him on the right track.
“My best mentors growing up were my football coaches,” Elliott said. “Guys I’m very close with still today. My football coaches when I was 7 and 13, I still talk to them today. Both of their sons are my best friends. My high school coach, [former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte], we’re still very close. And even all of my college coaches.
“Football coaches are the most influential people in my life other than my parents.”
Other topics Elliott touched on:
On the ESPN Body Issue:
“The photo shoot was great. It was definitely a good experience. At first it was a little odd, but you kind of get warmed up to it. I’m definitely glad I did it.”
On his relationship with quarterback Dak Prescott:
“It’s just great. It’s great to be able to come in with a rookie who kind of got everything thrown at him the same way you did. I think it helps that we’re really good friends. We’re basically best friends after just a year of knowing him. We have each other to use as tools to get through this.”
On having a camper from New Mexico:
“It makes you feel great. At Ohio State, Coach [Urban] Meyer always made it very important that we knew that you’re always someone else’s shining light. No matter how small you may think it is, the actions you do, you can change someone’s day. You can change someone’s life. You’ve got to take advantage of this pedestal and this stage we’re on and continue to spread happiness.”
On Cowboys hype being similar to Ohio State:
“It’s very similar to Ohio State. The fans are just as passionate, just as crazy.”
On the NFL relaxing its rules on touchdown celebrations:
“It’s great. It’s definitely needed in pro football and I think there are going to be some pretty funny celebrations this year. … [Jumping in The Salvation Army kettle] should be OK, but I don’t know.”
On being a mentor to kids:
“It’s great. It’s great to be on this stage and it’s all about doing it the right way, all about reinforcing these kids the right way and helping them become better people.”