ST. LOUIS -- Even as the tears streamed down his face, John Burroughs senior football star Ezekiel Elliott stepped forward and did the one thing nobody else on his team wanted to do -- he accepted the second place trophy following the Bombers’ 35-22 loss to Maryville in the MSHSAA Class Show-Me Bowl, Friday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome.
After four years of pain and sweat, and three straight heart-aching Show-Me Bowl losses, no one of the Burroughs team wanted anything to do with that second place trophy.
But just as he had all season, and throughout his brilliant career as a Bomber, Elliott stepped up and did what I had to be done.
“I had to be strong for my teammates,” Elliott said, during a post-game press conference where he and head coach Gus Frerotte were peppered with questions about why Burroughs didn’t win.
“I had to let my teammates know that it was okay. I mean, it hurts. God it hurts. But we’ve got to keep going. They’ve got another shot next year if you ask me.”
Elliott even had words of encouragement for the Valle Catholic team, which was getting ready to take the field for the Class 1 title game, as the Burroughs back left the field.
He walked past all 40 members of that team, held up the second place trophy, and told the Warriors, “go get that championship man, you don’t want this one. Believe me man, you want to other one. So go get it.”
“That’s just the kind of kid he is,” Frerotte said. “He’s tremendous young man, and a great player. We all know that. But you got to see what kind of leader he is. That’s the best thing about him.”
On Friday, Elliott’s performance during the game and after were equally top-notch.
And anybody lucky enough to witness both would be hard-pressed to name which one was better.
After the game, Elliott did his best to shield his own pain, while trying to make sure everyone else was taken care of.
And during the game, the future Ohio State star delivered the best individual yardage performance in Missouri state title game history, with 419 all-purpose yards, which included 218 rushing yards, 72 receiving yards, and 129 kickoff return yards.
Oh, and he scored all three Burroughs touchdowns to bring his season total to 50 -- a figure only a handful of players in Missouri high school football history have ever been able to reach.
“That running back, Elliott, is unbelievable,” Maryville head coach Matt Webb. “He’s quite a player.”
Indeed he is. Unfortunately though, Elliott will end his career without the one thing he wanted most -- the first-place state championship trophy.
“It was like deja vu,” Elliott said, of falling in the state championship game for the third straight year. “I don’t know what to say. It just hurts.”