INDIANAPOLIS — Barring unforeseen circumstances, Ezekiel Elliott should be the first running back selected in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Silver Football winner's complete skill set of running, receiving and blocking has scouts and other NFL personnel drooling over his potential. Yet, the Ohio State running back had to address his critical comments after Ohio State's loss to Michigan State again Thursday at the NFL Combine.
"I've told (teams) I've grown up a lot since then and it was a great learning moment for me," Elliott told reporters.
Elliott ripped Ohio State's play calling after the Buckeyes fell to the Spartans 17-14 in their only loss of the season. He questioned why he didn't get the ball more than two times in the second half as the offense struggled to move the ball in a driving rainstorm.
It was also the day he told the world he would be headed to the NFL following the season, a big reason why he was upset he didn't get more touches. The game against Michigan State doubled as the final home game of the season.
Elliott though, said when teams have asked him about the episode this week in Indianapolis, he tells them it is due to his passion.
"It was emotional, but I think teams want a competitor and that's what I am and that's where it all came from," Elliott said.
Elliott's teammates and head coach Urban Meyer backed him the following week, claiming what Elliott said was accurate. It is hard to argue — he finished with more than 1,800 yards and scored 23 touchdowns last season to finish eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
"I think he said what a lot of people were scared to say," Joey Bosa said Nov. 24. "He said what was in his heart. It may have been wrong in the moment, but it’s what he felt like he needed to say."
Added Meyer: "I couldn’t disagree with him, his comments, that he should have got the ball a little bit more. But that’s not the place to do it. He knows that."
Elliott led the Buckeyes to wins over Michigan and Notre Dame to finish the year 12-1, but NFL brass are searching for anything and everything to nitpick players about their pasts at the combine. That is the reality.
That's why Elliott's blowup continues to get brought up, even though there's a good chance he will be a first round pick.
"I just kind of focus on what I can control," Elliott said. "All I can control is when I go out (Friday) and compete."