Wolverine’s greatest life challenge came off the fieldWritten by Ryan Fowler | | email@example.com
Red-shirt freshman Elliott Mealer rolls out of bed Sunday morning. His body is beat up from a week’s worth of practices, the previous day’s war in the trenches and the mental anguish of a loss or the euphoria of a big win at the Big House.
He makes the extra effort to attend services at Keystone Community Church every Sunday.
After all, Elliott’s faith is what led him to the Michigan Wolverines.
“I put it toward God and he was leading me to come up north.”
His faith is also what helped him cope with a tragic, life-changing event two years ago.
“If it was my choice, I wouldn’t have any story to share.”
In October, ESPN shared Elliott’s story, a story many of you know well, on its investigative series “E:60.”
“I’d rather not be on ESPN for that,” Elliott said. “But at the same time, I do have a story. God has presented me with plenty of opportunities to make the tragedy we went through into a positive.”
Christmas Eve will mark the second anniversary of the tragedy.
On Dec. 24, 2007, Elliott, his mom, dad, brother Brock and girlfriend Hollis were in their SUV when another car broadsided them on Route 2 in Fulton County.
Elliott’s dad and Hollis were killed in the accident. His brother Brock was left paralyzed from the waist down. I stress was because Elliott tells me the rehab work Brock dedicates himself to since the accident could have him back on his feet soon.
“He’s really making strides,” Elliott said. “I fully expect him to be walking within the next year or so.”
Elliott walked away from the accident, but tore his rotator cuff trying to free Hollis. This selfless act forced him to miss his true freshman season with the Wolverines.
But this behemoth of a man, standing 6 feet and 5 inches tall, tipping the scales at 300 pounds with long brown hair touching the back of his neck, has worked his butt off to return to the team. This imposing menace backs up Steve Schilling on the offensive line, but takes the field to block on every field goal.
“It’s a different feeling running out of the tunnel and going up and touching the banner knowing that they might be able to use me in a game.”
Elliott taking the field at the Big House was part of Lloyd Carr’s big picture when the former coach recruited him in 2007.
“I knew the day I committed, Michigan was the place for me,” Elliott said.
This is ironic, considering Elliott has pictures growing up surrounded by OSU paraphernalia and a bedroom filled with scarlet and gray accents.
“Everything I loved about Ohio State before as a fan just changed when I was being recruited by Michigan,” Elliott said.
Fast-forward to this season, and Elliott and his teammates have been through the spin cycle of media coverage. From the four straight wins at the start of the season, to the five out of six losses that followed, critics of the Big 10 and Michigan football have been hovering over Ann Arbor like vultures.
“I don’t really pay any attention to it,” Elliott said. “It’s not anything the coaches have done; it’s us.”
For Elliott, his story comes full circle as the team he grew up watching and rooting for will be public enemy No. 1 come Nov. 21.
“It’s going to be a crazy feeling,” Elliott said of facing the Buckeyes. “It’s going to be a special game for me and I can’t wait to get after them.”
Elliott will have three more seasons of eligibility to amend his story up in Ann Arbor. If it works out the way he envisions, he welcomes ESPN back for another visit.
“Hopefully, I’m on there again, but it’s for holding up a Big 10 trophy.”
Ryan Fowler is the weekend sports anchor at NBC24 Sports.