Former Ohio State tight end Jeff Ellis died late last week in Roseville, Calif., due to pancreatic cancer, a former teammate and an OSU spokesman confirmed for The Dispatch. Ellis was 50.
He did not pass, however, without hearing from some of his OSU teammates. For example, former OSU quarterback Greg Frey, at the urging of Ellis’ wife, told The Dispatch he called him last week, “and though he couldn’t speak, she put the phone next to his ear and he was able to hear me.
“I told him how much I loved him, how much I was thinking of him. I was able to say goodbye, and I’m glad I did it.”
A son of the late former heavyweight world champion Jimmy Ellis, Jeff Ellis was a blue-chip prospect from Male High School in Louisville, Ky., recruited to OSU by Earle Bruce and his staff in 1987. He was part of the transition from Bruce to coach John Cooper in 1988, and had 40 catches that sophomore season.
But he suffered a knee injury in 1989, and though he returned to play for OSU in ’90 and ’91, his talents were diminished. His career totals at Ohio State were 70 catches for 863 and five touchdowns.
“Last week the memories came flooding back,” said Frey, OSU’s starting quarterback from ’88 through ’90. “Jeff caught my first touchdown pass, in 1988 in the opener against Syracuse, John Cooper’s first game at Ohio State.
“He was an NFL caliber tight end, no doubt about it, until he suffered that knee injury. He was never the same after that. But when when he was healthy, it was no joke. He was amazing.”
Ellis got involved in the construction industry and was living in Roseville, Calif., north of Sacramento at the time of his death.
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