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99 for 99 - #90: Ed Ellis Breaks 34 Year Draft Drought

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99 for 99 takes a look at the 99 biggest moments in UB Football history in anticipation of the 99th Season of UB Football which begins on September 1st, 2012. These moments are not in any order, however the top 10 moments have been saved for last.

In honor of the NFL Draft, UB's greatest Draft moments.

April 20th, 1997 - Ed Ellis breaks 34 year draft drought, selected in 4th round by New England.

In the 50's and 60's the Buffalo Bulls football program enjoyed an upward trajectory and their success manifested itself with 4 players selected in the NFL draft between 1952 and 1963. For 34 years after '63, the team stagnated and not a single player was selected from Buffalo.

This changed in '96, the Bulls went 8-3, and in the subsequent draft Ed Ellis was selected in the 4th round, 125th overall to Pete Carroll's New England Patriots. As a Hamden, Connecticut native Ellis was a Patriot fan as a kid.

At 6'7 325 Ellis had NFL size, but was projected to go in the 6th round of the draft. However he wowed scouts and was selected in the 4th round.

As Buffalo's first pick since the draft became a major television event, the pick exposed Buffalo football to the nation. However the local sports outlets were not as receptive to the story:

John Kolber wrote a letter to the Buffalo news after the draft:

It was great for UB's Ed Ellis to get drafted in the fourth round by the New England Patriots. I loved seeing "Ed Ellis OT SUNY/Buffalo" roll across the TV screen time after time. It's too bad the sports talk show host on WGR early Sunday afternoon wasn't sure if this was the same Ed Ellis from UB. I thought he was joking; he wasn't. WGR didn't bother reporting this historic story all afternoon

First action Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots October 12, 1997

As a backup lineman, Ellis got his first action against the Buffalo Bills, after Zefross Moss left the game with back problems. Ellis entered in the second quarter and finished the game after halftime.

Trouble in Spain

After 3 years in New England, Ellis was not able to overtake the starting job from Zefron Moss. However with new coach Bill Belichek and the release of Moss, Ellis had a clear shot at starting.

Ellis was assigned to the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe to get playing time over the summer. Ellis struggled in Barcelona, missed team meetings and fought with teammates before eventually being dismissed from the team.

This did not sit well with Coach Belichek, discipline problems led to his demise in his previous head coaching stint, and he had since coached under noted disciplinarian Bill Parcells.

While Pete Carroll's training camps were compared to summer camps, Belichek's were more akin to boot camp...and it included summary executions. After deriding the team for being out of shape, Belichek instantly cut Ellis for failing his physical.

Burgundy and Gold

Ellis' second chance came in Washington he was coached by the legendary Russ Grimm and Norv Turner. He impressed coaches with his work ethic and refuted the image of him being lazy. He played 12 games for the Redskins.

The Block

Ellis signed with the Chargers in 2001 and played mostly as backup and on special teams. His biggest impact was October 29, 2001. San Diego QB Doug Flutie faced his former team the Buffalo Bills for the first time. Down 24-20, Doug Flutie used his trademark bootleg to give San Diego the 27-24 lead late in the 4th quarter. Buffalo drove back to kick the game tying 44 yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining, but former Bull Ed Ellis blocked the kick sealing the victory for Flutie and the Chargers.

Ellis had his best years in 2001 and 2002, playing 31 of 32 games and starting 5.

In 2003, Ellis was signed by Mike Shanahan to the Denver Broncos but was cut after training camp, and was resigned by the Chargers. Ellis played his final 2 games and got the final start of his career in 2003.

In 2004, Ellis was signed by Tom Coughlin's Giants, but was put on injured reserve after sustaining a bulging disc in his neck.

After his 7 year NFL career, Ellis was enshrined in the UB Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.