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Entrance Interview: Purdue defensive tackle Raymond Ellis

More Entrance Interviews ($): Isaac Zico | Jacob Abrams | Darius Pittman | Terry Wright | Allen Daniels | Tobias Larry | KeyRon Catlett

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Only a little more than a week until Raymond Ellis arrives at Purdue, but he'd be on campus sooner if he could.

The defensive tackle has waited years for this chance, to play at a Division I school, after spending his first couple seasons at a junior college. In advance of his arrival, we talked to the West Coast native for his Entrance Interview.

GoldandBlack.com: The plan is to be at Purdue on June 10.

Ellis: “I’m very excited, wish I could leave earlier. But that’s when the dorms open up. But I’ve been working out, getting workouts in to get ready on my own.”

GoldandBlack.com: What have been your priorities recently?

Ellis: “I was in school until last week, I believe, so it’s been school, trying to get done, and then working out after and on my days off. So those have been my two priorities.”

GoldandBlack.com: For you, being a J.C. grad, it’s a little different, since you’ve been away from home for a couple years. But what will it mean to move to the Midwest to go to a Big Ten Power Five school?

Ellis: “It’ll be a big change, definitely for location. I’m from San Jose and went to the City College of San Francisco, so it’s not too far, an hour drive away. But during the season, I did get an apartment up there, just to focus and not have to worry about driving. Living up there helped me prepare for living away from home, living on my own. So I feel like that’s really going to help me when I move to Purdue. It’s going to be a big step.

"At City College, I really had to rely on myself for what I’m eating and when to eat, and I feel when I move to Purdue, of course, I won’t have those worries and can just focus on school and football. I won’t have to worry about my next meal.”

GoldandBlack.com: That’s a good thing. Will this be your first significant trip to the Midwest?

Ellis: “Yeah, I’ve always been on the West Coast. I took a visit up there and a visit to Kent State. Those are my first two times, basically, over there.”

GoldandBlack.com: So, then being a West Coast guy, what are your perceptions of the Midwest, whether they’re real or not?

Ellis: “Nothing much. I try not to judge. But it’s a lot of farmlands. Corn-fed, big guys up there in the Midwest, but nothing much more.”

GoldandBlack.com: You might be on the right track. OK, so City College has sent a few players Purdue’s way over the years, including Austin Larkin recently.

Ellis: “Yeah, he’s my boy. We played one season together and got pretty close. We’re good friends and I’m excited to know that I have a friend up there already, on campus, on the scene, to know somebody already. I think that’s an exciting process for deciding where I wanted to go. That helped a lot, knowing that I have a friend already established up there. So if I have any questions, like, ‘What should I do?’ I can go to him. That’s a big help. But yeah, we’re good friends.”

GoldandBlack.com: Did you talk to him during the recruiting process, just to feel out Purdue?

Ellis: “I contacted him and he was my host when I went for my official visit. So I got some time to hang out and talk to him, ask, ‘How do you like it?’”

GoldandBlack.com: You’re looking forward to playing with him again.

Ellis: “Yeah, I always tell this story: It was my first season at City College and I was a D-end, thought I could be a D-end, had slimmed down a little bit. I was 260. And then a Notre Dame bounce-back comes in two weeks before the start of the season, and that was Austin. He takes a starting position. But I didn’t let that stop me. I kept fighting for the position and I did get a few downs in there in my first season. I didn’t let it hold me down. The second season comes around and I’m one of the starting D-tackles, had gained a little bit of weight. I continued working.

“I became really good friends with him in the end, never held it against him.”

GoldandBlack.com: But you had to be a little irked at first.

Ellis: “Yeah, at first. But he’s a good guy, hard to be mad at him for long.”

GoldandBlack.com: How much weight did you gain in a season?

Ellis: “So out of high school straight into City College, I was around 265. I was really working out and felt like I could be a defensive end, because I was a D-tackle in high school and an offensive lineman. I was around 275, then in the offseason really worked out. I worked out and gained weight — I can’t lie, some of it wasn’t good — but I gained some weight and the end of my first season I was around 280. And in the offseason, I started working out, came back home, then was at City and was around 295 at the beginning of the second season. And now, I’m back home because this last semester, I was back home because I was a part-time student. I commuted the days I had school and was able to work out with my trainer that I had in high school. He did really well with me in the weight room and getting me on the field, so now I’m around 305 and the weight, I feel like it’s not affecting me at all. I’m still hitting the same times that I did when I was lighter. My running and other drills are good and I definitely feel a lot stronger.”

GoldandBlack.com: Pretty prepared then on getting to Purdue?

Ellis: “Yeah, pretty prepared. I still need some work, definitely, with my weight numbers, but I think I’ll be coming in pretty solid.”

GoldandBlack.com: How tall are you?

Ellis: “I would like to say 6-foot-4, but I’m 6-3 and three-quarters. Can’t lie. But yeah, almost 6-4.”

GoldandBlack.com: We’ll round it up for you.

Ellis: “(Laughter) Yeah.”

GoldandBlack.com: What was the reason behind going to City College?

Ellis: “Definitely it was for football. If I wanted to find academics, I could have stayed around San Jose at community colleges that had OK football programs. But I really wanted to continue playing football and the ultimate goal was for my athletics to pay for my academics. My trainer talked to me and said City College of San Francisco and he gave them my number. We talked. After seeing the program and what it is, I couldn’t say no to going there.”

GoldandBlack.com: Was part of the goal to garner more Power Five interest?

Ellis: “Yeah, definitely wanted to play at the highest level I could. If I would have went somewhere around here in San Jose, I probably would have went to a D-II (after) and I knew in my heart that I could be playing at a much higher level than that. I think City College has helped me and gave me the spotlight that I needed to get those D-I looks.”

GoldandBlack.com: When did Purdue come along?

Ellis: “They came pretty late in the recruiting process. Once I started getting a few looks, then Purdue’s new coaches got situated. Coach (Nick) Holt, the defensive coordinator, he is actually really good friends with our offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. They used to play football together at UAB, so once they stared talking and Coach Holt told Coach (Eduardo) Nuno, he told them what they needed. And I was one of the guys Coach Nuno talked about and Purdue liked what it saw. It was a little late but it all worked out in the end.”

GoldandBlack.com: Had Purdue not come along, what were your plans?

Ellis: “I had some offers. I was talking to Kent State and a lot of MAC guys, like Kent State, Buffalo and a lot of other guys. And I was talking to Cal a little bit. But I definitely had options to play D-I football before Purdue.”

GoldandBlack.com: How did playing football start for you?

Ellis: “Yeah, my mom loves me a lot — say it nicely — so she didn’t let me play football ‘til eighth grade. I got involved in Pop Warner football and I had to actually lose weight. I was too big, too heavy. In three months, I had really prepared myself and lost 20 pounds to play. It was pretty crazy, being an eighth grader dieting and working out just to play football. I really wanted to.

"I can’t lie, I wasn’t good in eighth grade. The first time playing football and I didn’t really know what was going on. I transitioned to freshman year and was on the J.V. team. I felt like, ‘Yeah, I can play football, but it wasn’t a major deal in my head yet.’ But the coach saw potential in me and I went to varsity my sophomore year. I played with the juniors and seniors. Still, I felt like I was good at football, but I had other things I thought I could use to get to college. But my junior year is really the year I realized I could use this to play for my education and put myself on that next level.

“Definitely my junior year is when I could see that I was good, that I could actually do it. Around that time is when I got my trainer. And senior year, I got some looks from West Coast schools, like San Jose State and Fresno State, UNR, but I struggled with school. I do. It’s not one of my strong suits. I had some trouble, but I ended up finishing my senior year and was a qualifier out of high school. But I wanted to see what I could do, so that led to my trainer, like I said earlier, directing me to City College of San Francisco.”

GoldandBlack.com: Seems like it’s worked out well so far. OK, so what position were you playing in eighth grade when you weren’t good?

Ellis: “I was playing offensive guard. I was a bigger guy, definitely, hadn’t fully broken out of my athletic shell at that time. As a freshman, I was a tackle, both offensive and defensive, and then that’s where I stuck my four years. Switching on each side, and playing guard for a few plays. But mostly tackle on both sides.”

GoldandBlack.com: You’ve mentioned the trainer a few times, do you consider him a pretty big mentor over the years?

Ellis: “Yeah, definitely. I don’t know how my (high school) coach found him, but he mentioned him and I made contact. He trains a lot of kids in the area. His name is AJ Rangel and his program is called ProSport. He trains a lot of the private schools around here. He has a lot of guys under his wings who have gone Division I and even a few to the pros. He definitely has put me in the right direction. He put me in the right direction and put me in a lot of camps during high school. He has always given me motivation by telling me he sees a lot of potential and really helped the whole process of this.”

GoldandBlack.com: You come in to a position in need of depth at Purdue. Was that intriguing to you during recruitment?

Ellis: “Definitely excited. Once Purdue told me about their situation, hat they really have two really good developed guys who are coming back for the next season and then it falls off with a lot of freshmen, sophomores and redshirts who aren’t developed enough or mature enough that they feel are ready to play this next season, so they really needed a guy to come in, a guy who has had more experience and has matured. It intrigued me a little bit to look at Purdue.

"And then Austin, he told me, he knows who I am and the type of player I am, he said, ‘If you just work hard, you definitely can get playing time. If you come in and show that mentality.’”

GoldandBlack.com: You’re a three for two guy, correct?

Ellis: “I have three years. I have the redshirt. If I need it, then definitely. But they don’t want me to. They need some guys to come in.”

GoldandBlack.com: What number do you plan on wearing?

Ellis: “You know, I haven’t thought about it. I’ve never been picky about my numbers. I like to let my coach choose it and whatever number he choses, I’m going to make it my number. In high school, I got No. 51 and no one really wanted 51. So I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s good. I’ll take it,’ and I made it my number. When the other teams’ saw my number, they got a little scared.

“Then at City College, I let my coach choose it and he picked 96, which I really liked. It’s my birthday year, so it has a little bit of significance to it, I guess. I might keep 96, that’s what I’m feeling like, but we’ll see. I might want to keep it in the 90s.”

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