Football Kendral Ellison Austin 2 0112

Former Austin star Kendral Ellison is the defensive coordinator for the Hamburg Sea Devils in the European League of Football. [DAVID ELWELL/DECATUR DAILY]

When Kendral Ellison looked across the football field at the old Austin High on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, it brought back a lot of memories.

“Yes, I spent a lot of great times out here,” Ellison said. “It helped shape my life.”

Ellison has traveled a long way since he last left that football field, but he has not traveled far from football. He’s one of the top assistant coaches in the European League of Football.

After being a star defensive end at Austin, Ellison continued to play the game at Rhodes College in Memphis. His hunger for the game kept him wanting more. Ellison ended up playing in Europe with a team in Finland. Then came stops with teams in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Today, Ellison is a highly regarded defensive coordinator for the Hamburg Sea Devils.

“I was the only guy in my senior class at Austin to go on to play football in college,” Ellison said. “I was 5-foot-8 and weighed 175 pounds my senior season. Nobody wanted me except Rhodes. Not many people go to Rhodes because they want to play football, but I did.

“After college, I was hoping to follow the path of my cousin Juwan Garth and play in Canada. When that didn’t work, an alum of Rhodes that I knew suggested Europe. That turned into one of the best things to ever happen to me.”

Ellison has been involved with football in Europe as a player and coach for almost 10 years. The past year was one of the best. The Hamburg Sea Devils advanced to the league championship game before falling to the Frankfort Galaxy, 32-30, on a late field goal.

The Sea Devils’ defense led the league in the 12-game season with 47 sacks and 11 interceptions. They allowed the fewest yards rushing, second fewest overall yards and second fewest points.

“We had some really great players who played like mad dogs,” Ellison said. “We took the leash off and let them play physical, fast and aggressive. Teams didn’t like playing us.”

The Sea Devils play at Stadion Hoheluft, which is a converted soccer stadium, to sell-out crowds of 8,000. The league championship game was played to a crowd of 25,000 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

When Ellison signed a new contract to return to Hamburg in November, it was big news on the league’s social media pages.

Ellison’s success is no surprise to former Austin assistant coach Mitchell Knox.

“He’s always been a hard worker, who knows the Xs and Os of the game,” Knox said. “He’s a people person, too, and that goes a long way in coaching.”

Ellison gives Knox and former Austin assistant Lewis White, now the principal at Priceville High, a lot of credit for getting him started on the path to success.

“I have been fortunate to have some great mentors in my life,” Ellison said. “They were the first two to get me started on following my dream.”

Ellison is now trying to be a mentor to athletes looking for football success in Europe. Football to most people in Europe is of course the game called soccer in the United States. American football in Europe is a growing sport that Ellison thinks will become a common stepping stone to the NFL for players as well as coaches.

The history of American football in Europe has been a story of many different leagues and levels of play over the years. The creation of the European League of Football in 2020 takes it to a new level financially. It has 12 teams located in Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria and Turkey. The plan is to grow the sport and expand the league into at least 20 cities and in places like London and Paris.

Each team is allowed four players from the United States. The rest of the players are from Europe.

“You aren’t going to get rich playing football in Europe,” Ellison said. “You can save a lot of money because the teams take care of their players.

“It’s a great opportunity to continue playing football at a high level and visit places you never dreamed of seeing. I know it’s been a blessing for this kid from Decatur.”

Get Unlimited Access
$3 for 3 Months
Subscribe Now

After the initial selected subscription period your subscription rate will auto renew at $8.00 per month. or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.