tells it, "I said, Coach, I've never done that before, but if you think I can do it, that's good enough for me.'"
Now that he admits to being a linebacker, Ellis sounds a lot like that in recalling the day Parcells told him he thought he should switch. "As a player," he recalls, "you want to do what the coach says is best for the team. But inside, you're thinking, 'Man, are you sure about this?' But he said I reminded him of McGinest because we were both basketball players and good athletes and he was pretty sure I could do it."
The fact that Ellis has made the conversion from end to linebacker in his ninth season is somewhere between impressive and amazing. The way he is now able to talk publicly about Parcells is startling, given the dialogue of spring.
"That Bill is something else," Ellis says now, shaking his head. "He's unique. He really knows his players. What he's done with me is what I needed to be done. I was pessimistic. I thought I'd just be doing a lot of standing around. But he got me back into it again. He reeled me back into it, and I really appreciate it."
Ellis has been designated, by the coach, the lone Cowboys captain for each of the first three preseason games. This is a gesture not lost on Ellis, who has prided himself on his leadership role on the Dallas defense for the last several years.
"You know that leadership is something I take seriously," he says, "and it's been challenging to be a leader, to feel like one, while I'm still learning. But it's been a fairly quick process, and as I get a little more confident I'm starting to be a little more vocal again.
"But I was pretty surprised to be made the captain in Seattle. I mean, I'd only been trying this about seven days at the time, and we're in the locker room before the game and he says, 'OK, Captain will be 98.' I mean, I'd have thought he'd be saying, 'Well, he's learning a new position, we don't want to put too much extra responsibility on him.' But he sees fit to make me the captain also. It was unexpected, but he's making a statement. I hear him. I mean, you notice not only have I been the captain, I've been the only one. The other team has three, four guys. Every game the ref has looked at me and said, 'Where's everybody else?' I have to tell him, 'I'm it.'"
Greg Ellis is indeed it, "it" being linebacker, leader, happy camper. That doesn't mean he's Lawrence Taylor - yet.
But he will answer to "Willie."