Wednesday, March 21, 2012

James Elliott, “Mr. 5:00 AM,” awaits NCAA decision on hardship waiver

The Mobile Press-Register’s Tommy Hicks has a great feature article on South Alabama offensive lineman James Elliott in Wednesday morning’s print edition. Elliot is a one-time Kentucky Wildcat who transferred to Joey Jones’ Jaguars to be closer to his mother Pamela, who is suffering from non-alcohol liver failure.

Elliott lives with his mother in Pensacola, Florida and rises each morning at 3:00 am, makes the drive to the West Mobile South Alabama campus and is there when athletic trainer Jinni Frisbey arrives at 5:00 am to open the USA fieldhouse.

Frisbey calls Elliot “Mr. 5:00 am.”

Elliott has applied to the NCAA for a hardship waiver which will allow the 6-2, 300 lb lineman to play immediately for the Jaguars and not be forced to sit out a year. A decision by the league is expected to come sometime before the 2012 season begins.

But if there was ever a textbook case for granting a hardship waiver, Elliott is it.

Most 17 to 22 year olds have a hard time getting out of bed before 9:00 am. By the time they’re up and coherent, Elliott has already worked out at the fieldhouse, made a 6:30 am spring practice and has already made it to his first class of the day.

Sometimes as late as 9:00 pm, Elliott makes the drive back to Pensacola, where his real work begins—caring for his mother.

As Elliott puts it, “There’s nothing [the doctors] can really do now. They’re just trying to create a stress-free environment for her, which is hard for her running her business back in Pensacola. They have her on a very strict diet. It’s pretty much trying to keep everything as calm as can be at this point.”

On his prospects of playing for the Jags in 2012:

“I’ll play wherever they put me. I just want to help the team as much as I can. … If [the waiver] doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m just glad to be at South Alabama. If it works out, great. If not, I’ll still be right here… I wouldn’t change a thing.”

This kind of dedication—to his mother and to his team—is what should make this a slam dunk case for the NCAA. If they really are all about the student-athlete, this is one whose waiver application should be granted—immediately.

Elliott doesn’t need the distraction of wondering whether he sits or plays in 2012, especially after all of the work he’s already put in after transferring just a few months ago. Pamela doesn’t need the stress of wondering whether her son’s hard work and dedication go for naught.

Character should count for something and Elliott’s character couldn’t be displayed any better.

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