Ellis Lankster: Fighter, Hero, Inspiration

Jake Steinberg , TheJetsBlog.com

Jets cornerback Ellis Lankster has been getting attention all summer and with his outstanding play during camp Lankster, 25, has earned the nickname, “Ellis Island.”  Now in his second year with the team, the young cornerback is settling into a spot on the roster and could be serious contributor to this defense thanks to his skills, his dedication to work and the help of some very excellent corners who play with him.

Lisa Zimmerman recently profiled Ellis for CBSSports.com.

During the 2012 training camp, Lankster has made his presence on the field known with solid tackling and continued improvement.

“I feel like I’ve improved as far as slowing my game down,” Lankster said. “I’ve been working on my hips, getting stretched every day. I’m trying to follow Cromartie and Revis, how they take care of their body. What I’m lacking is being consistent on every play.”

For Lankster that means not to altering his technique with each receiver he faces, but rather remain the same on each and every play, no matter the opponent.

He’s not the only one focused on it. Revis and Cromartie are in his ear constantly. “They both fuss at me all the time,” Lankster said. “I have the best corners to watch and learn from. And me and Cro are really close so he doesn’t care what he says to me or how he says it. He’ll just say, ‘Shut up and get it done,’ like a big brother would.”

The Jets plan to use Lankster a lot this season. DB Coach Dennis Thurman is excited about him. “Ellis Lankster has great physical talent. He can cover slots, he can cover tight ends, he can cover backs, and he can blitz,” Thurman said.

Thurman isn’t the only one excited about Lankster’s potential. Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine had this to say about Ellis, “As far as the fourth corner spot, I would have to say there is a young kid by the name of Ellis Lankster who played primarily special teams for us a year ago. He’s done a real nice job for us and he’s taking on a bigger role.”

Now that you know a little bit about Ellis on the field, it’s time to get to know the man off of it.  Lankster is more than just a playmaker though. He is an inspiration, a hero, and a fighter.

As Lisa noted, Cromartie and Revis are acting as “big brothers” to Lankster. In return, Lankster does the same to younger generations. “Ellis loves helping younger athletes and all of our high school and college guys look to him as a “big brother”. You can’t come away meeting Ellis and not be impressed by him and attracted to his genuine nature,” said Vince McConnell, Owner/Operator of McConnell Athletics and Ellis’ Performance Strength/Conditioning.

If you look around the NFL today, it will be hard to find a more dedicated and talented person than Lankster. “Ellis is gifted with rare athletic tools that made it easy for him to “get by” with mechanical errors in high school and early West Virginia University days,” Coach McConnell told me.

McConnell continued, “With a willingness to learn, acknowledge weak links, and work out of his comfort zone, Ellis has become a bonafide NFL CB with a work ethic that is as rare as the aforementioned athletic skills he possesses. Ellis personifies what McConnell Athletics’ pyramid of excellence is all about: Commitment/Consistency/Confidence/Conquer. As well, Ellis is one of the most humble, generous people you’ll find.”

“In my nearing-30-years of coaching [athletes], Ellis is my favorite all-time to work with. I say this not just because of his accomplishments but due to what he is doing with what he has been given as well as the way he combines incredible confidence to perform at world-class levels along with a humility and willingness to keep learning.,” McConnell said.

But there is something else about Lankster, something that distinguishes him from the many other hardworking athletes in the league.  Lankster suffers from stuttering, and it is something he has to deal with every single day since he was a child. While it would be very easy for Ellis to be embarrassed and shy away from the media and spotlight, he does the exact opposite. In fact, Ellis has teamed with the Stuttering Foundation, and has made it his goal to help kids that stutter around the world overcome their fears.

So what is stuttering? According to the Foundation’s website, stuttering is a communication disorder that causes things such as abnormal stoppages in speech or words broken by repetition. More than 68 million people worldwide stutter.

In early May, Ellis was awarded for all the work he does for the stuttering community. Lankster was presented with the “Converting Awareness into Action” Award at the Stuttering Foundation Gala in honor of National Stuttering Awareness Week.

“God made me a star football player who stutters for a reason, so I can help other people who stutter,” Lankster said.

“Ellis shows his true toughness by sharing his struggles with fluency as a child. He refused to let his stutter keep him from his dream of playing professional football, and he is committed to helping and inspiring children attain their dreams by overcoming the obstacles they face,” said Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation.

As part of his mission to give back, Ellis gave the Stuttering Foundation two tickets to the Giants game on August 18th. Below Max and his father, courtesy of Ellis, enjoyed the game.

It’s difficult to figure out what is bigger, his smile or his heart. Ellis has used this problem to turn it into something special.

Lankster spent this offseason training with McConnell and, as always, helping others. “Ellis has an incredible way of communicating with training partners and teammates to inspire them to new levels. His desire to be assisting hands-on with high school DB’s, and youth athletes, reveals his willingness to share and ability to coach,” McConnell said. “Our young athletes are tremendously inspired by Ellis’ head-on addressing of stuttering. It shows them that they CAN do same with any challenge they may face. Ellis has turned what appears to be a “negative” into a strong positive. NFL gives him platform to be more visible in his victorious day to day life.”

“The fact that he deals with stuttering is a non-issue due to this aspect of his inner fiber. The way he embraces others is simply a reflection of how self-acceptance transcends challenges such as the stuttering,” McConnell said.

So this season, when you are watching Lankster on Sunday’s be sure to remember he Ellis is a hero, a fighter, and a huge inspiration to millions of kids who stutter around the world.

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