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Male Athlete of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott

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Then-OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) leaps over a defender during a game against Western Michigan on Sept. 26 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

Then-OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) leaps over a defender during a game against Western Michigan on Sept. 26 at Ohio Stadium.
Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

Ever since bursting onto the national scene during the Buckeyes’ improbable national-championship run two seasons ago, Ezekiel Elliott has been revered by fans. His selection as The Lantern’s Male Athlete of the Year proves that once more.

Although he was the full-time starter for just two seasons, Elliott leaves Columbus with his name sprinkled throughout the program’s record books.

The St. Louis native is second in career rushing yards (3,961) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (43). Among players with more than 200 carries, Elliott is the leader in yards per attempt with 6.7. His five 200-yard performances are tied for first in OSU history.

In his final year in scarlet and gray, Elliott ran for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns, helping him garner the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year award and a spot on the second-team All-America.

His combination of power and speed allowed Elliott to shake off would-be-tacklers near the line of scrimmage, before using his quickness to outrun secondaries. Those attributes, coupled with his exceptional blocking, prompted OSU running backs coach Tony Alford, on Nov. 16, to call Elliott “the best player in the country.”

One cannot, however, write an overview of Elliott’s career without mentioning his controversial postgame press conference in which he blasted the coaching staff’s play-calling after the Buckeyes’ 17-14 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 21.

The tirade prompted heavy criticism nationally, but many within Buckeye Nation sided with their star tailback, mainly because his complaints about receiving only 12 carries held water.

But even those fans who might have expressed displeasure then likely forgave him after he rushed for 363 yards and six touchdowns over his final two games.

Elliott is projected to be a first-round pick in April’s NFL draft and the first running back selected.

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