TAMPA — Greg Ellingson had to be shaking his head.
After his August release by the Buccaneers, the former Robinson High star tried to figure out why he didn't make the team despite a solid training camp. It was the second time Ellingson had been cut by an NFL team (Jacksonville in 2011).
He turned in his playbook to the Jaguars without question, but he needed some answers from the Bucs.
"I needed to know why," he recalled. "I needed to know what I could do to get better."
The measurables were all there. Ellingson possessed the size (6 feet 3, 200 pounds), speed (4.4 in the 40), vertical leap (39.5 inches) and hands.
"(Coach Greg) Schiano basically broke it down for me and said I needed to be the best at one thing to keep a spot," Ellingson said. "Whether it was speed, route running or catching the ball."
The Bucs passed, but their loss looks to be the Storm's gain in the Arena Football League. Ellingson caught 15 passes for 159 yards in last Saturday's season-opening loss against the Jacksonville Sharks. The Florida International product looks to keep progressing when the Storm hosts Cleveland tonight.
"It was a big deal to go out there and show out in front of my friends and family again," Ellingson said.
Coach Dave Ewart said he wouldn't be shocked if another NFL team comes knocking on Ellingson's door.
"You can certainly see why the Bucs brought him into camp," he said. "He's a big guy and a tough guy who runs good routes. The good news for him is he is definitely on teams' radar."
Ellingson, 25, said he has been overlooked his entire career, so he's in familiar territory. He wasn't highly regarded coming out of Robinson but landed at FIU and was a four-year starter. He also transformed his body from a 170-pounder who ran in the high 4.6s in the 40 to running 4.4 at 200 pounds. But even after catching 131 passes for 2,018 yards and 14 TDs at FIU, Ellingson went undrafted.
"People have always looked past me, and I just keep proving them wrong," he said. "It can be frustrating, but it's also motivating."
But after trips to camp with the Bucs and Jags — plus a short stint with the AFL's New Orleans VooDoo in between — Ellingson is happy to be settled in back home for now. "It's nice to be in one place for a change, especially here in Tampa," he said. "I just want to keep turning heads and getting myself on tape. Hopefully that will give me a chance to stick somewhere."