A former NFL defensive lineman visited the Main Campus of Vance-Granville Community College on March 16 and spoke to students, faculty and staff about his experiences and the keys to success.
Greg Ellis spoke in the VGCC Civic Center for an hour-long presentation that was sponsored by the college’s Male Mentoring Program. That program’s co-coordinator, VGCC Academic and Career Coach Anthony Pope, was Ellis’ middle school football coach in Wendell, his hometown.
Ellis recalled that Pope “was the first coach who saw athletic potential in me” and that middle school was where his football career began. Ellis graduated from East Wake High School and went on to become an All-ACC player and second team All-American at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated as the school’s all-time sack leader, even surpassing Lawrence Taylor. He earned a degree in communications studies at UNC.
Drafted as the eighth pick in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Ellis was later selected for the 2007 Pro Bowl. He suffered an Achilles tendon injury that was thought to be a career-ender, but returned to the field and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2007. Ellis played his final season with the Oakland Raiders before retiring in 2010. Today, he is the father of three children and CEO of his Texas-based multimedia production company, Play Now Enterprises.
In his remarks to VGCC students, Ellis started by focusing on “RTP,” which for him stand not for Research Triangle Park, but for “Rules, Tools and Preparation.” He explained that we all must take the time to learn the rules that govern any endeavor in order to succeed. Second come the tools. “I believe that God has put tools in all of us that will allow us to be successful,” Ellis said. “It’s up to us to figure out what those tools are, and then be willing to develop those tools. You want to become a master at whatever you are doing.” Finally, success requires preparation. “Are you willing to prepare?” Ellis asked. “That’s where most people get lost. They’re not willing to put the time and effort into becoming a good football player or a good student or a good coach or whatever it is you want to do. Most people aren’t willing to pay the price.”
Ellis went on to outline for his audience the stages of motivation, inspiration and manifestation. “Motivation is not enough,” he said. “Motivation helps us to get started, but it won’t propel us to the end.” Motivation can turn into inspiration, he explained. “Inspiration means you sacrifice and work hard, and that’s what makes you successful,” Ellis said, citing the example of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “Jerry functions out of inspiration,” he said. “He’s a man who’s willing to burn the midnight oil.” Only through inspiration can anyone experience the manifestation of success, Ellis maintained.
One of his recent projects has been “Carter High,” a feature film based on a true story of a high school football team in Texas. Ellis was the executive producer of the movie, which stars Charles S. Dutton, Vivica Fox and David Banner. He played the film’s trailer for the VGCC audience. “It’s not just about football, it’s about making the right choices and the consequences of the decisions you make,” Ellis explained.
Supported by a grant from the N.C. Community College System, the VGCC Male Mentoring program involves an active, intensive, and engaging process of academic coaching and case management to help male students succeed. For more information on the mentoring program, contact Anthony Pope at [email protected] or (252) 738-3395, or Greg Nash at [email protected] or (252) 738-3305.