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Dan Ellington’s determination to play on a torn ACL should be an inspiration to all

Dan Ellingotn stands sideline during Saturday night’s loss against Appalachian State. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Dan Ellington took off on a run. The Georgia State Panthers were in the closing seconds of what was a high scoring first half against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks and the quarterback was trying to help his team secure some last-second points. As he planted his foot to cut, however, he went down.

I didn’t need a second look to confirm what I hoped would not be the case: Ellington had torn his ACL. For more or less any other player, this type of injury is a season-ender. But Ellington refused to give up. A week later, he took the field against Appalachian State and performed one of the most heroic acts in sports.

Let me start by saying it already requires a major level of bravery and confidence to step out onto a football field, especially in a day and age where the risk the sport poses to the human body is as clear as ever.

To step out onto a football field on a torn ACL is another story. Ellington’s dedication to his team through this difficult time is nothing short of inspirational.

Before Ellington and Remy Lazarus suffered their injuries in the defeat to Louisiana-Monroe, the Georgia State Panthers were in the midst of producing the best season in program history. The team’s record sat at 6-2 and Ellington’s dual-threat play style was giving opponents a nightmare on a weekly basis.

But life is not fair, and the world of sports is often a cruel one.

Following Ellington’s injury, the team dropped two straight games. When head coach Shawn Elliott took the podium for his post-game press conference after the 56-27 defeat against Appalachian State, he was as emotional as ever. With tears in his eyes, Elliott delivered a powerful message.

“We all witnessed something tonight that was incredible,” he said. “For Dan Ellington to take the field tonight and do the things that he did was extraordinary. And he didn’t do it for himself … It is truly a testament of who that man is, and I hope everybody is watching.” 

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What was Ellington’s inspiration?

“I wanted to bring the school the first Sun Belt Championship,” he said. “That was my motivation all year.” 

While any hopes of a Sun Belt title slipped away after the defeat to the Mountaineers, Ellington went back out a week later and helped his team defeat South Alabama in his final home game. The win sealed school-records for both regular-season wins (7) and wins at home in a single season (5).

And the sad thing is that it still was not enough to fill up the student section. I guess the rain was enough to deter the majority from witnessing one of the most historic moments in program history. You know the games are free to attend, right? 

In years past, the young program has had its fair share of struggles, but this season was special. The team certainly didn’t suck. So, in many ways, I am upset so many students missed the show. 

See you all at the bowl game?