friend (in college at North Carolina), but Greg was looking over his shoulder because they drafted another guy at his position. I remember one day in mini-camp, Greg and the veterans had run their 300s. The rookies had to wait to run. When Eb beat his time, Greg went back out, ran it again and beat Eb's time and then went home."
Ellis, says Nguyen, is a tremendous competitor who hides that aspect of his personality behind a calm exterior. But to the people who know him, that's just Greg.
Dave Campo was Ellis' first pro defensive coordinator and second head coach. These two have a bond. Now back as the secondary coach, Campo confirms, this public Ellis of the last few years is what the real Ellis has always been, with improvements.
"I think he's more experienced," Campo says. "I think he's embraced his role in the defense. When he's called on to go out and jam a receiver like we asked him to do with Kellen Winslow in Cleveland, he does it. When he's called on to rush the passer, he does that. I'm not sure as a younger player he would've looked at that the same way."
Was he a worrywart when Campo coached him before?
"No question about it," comes the quick response. "That's something he's always been. When Coach Parcells moved him to linebacker, he called me about ten times. I told him, 'Hey, don't worry about it. You can play anything he wants you to play. You'll be fine.' Then he goes out and makes the Pro Bowl. I guess he's happy now.
"But it's interesting. I think there are a few guys who are very, very self-confident about what they bring to the table. But I think the majority of NFL players are nervous about who's there, who's next, what's happening next. I think Greg's been a little bit that way, but I think it's made him a better player, because he felt he had to push himself every time."
In the category of what's next, the Cowboys, who are after all managing a business, must look long range. The suggestion has been made that if Ellis, somewhere not too far down the road, could embrace the idea of being a pass-rush specialist, it could extend his career by several more years. Does Campo think Ellis could deal with such a suggestion?
"I think that would be difficult for him," says Campo. "I think he still sees himself as an every-down player. At the same time, I think he would do whatever it takes to stay in the league as long as he could, and he's smart enough to realize what he has to do."
That is not yet. It's not nearly yet. Eleven years in, Greg Ellis has finally been recognized as a Pro Bowl player. Only the late Harvey Martin led this team in sacks more consecutive seasons than Ellis. And he's out there leading the way in a huge, emotional game like Monday's.
Greg Ellis is a captain and a leader on a good team with its eyes on the biggest prize a pro football team can chase. There will be plenty of time later to find the next thing to worry about it. And he will.