NFF Press Release
JOHN "JUMBO" ELLIOTT 2020 College Football Hall of Fame Electee
Word spread about a big kid out of Sachem High School on Long Island, and the Eastern schools started lining up to recruit John “Jumbo” Elliott. The news traveled West, and Michigan assistant head coach Gary Moeller paid a visit, followed by a trip from future College Football Hall of Fame coach Bo Schembechler who sat with Elliott’s parents in their kitchen.
“That was quite a thrill,” said Elliott. “Everybody knew about Michigan-Ohio State, the tradition, Michigan being a powerhouse and Bo Schembechler being a legendary coach. The safe play would have been for me to go to Rutgers or Syracuse, but once I took a trip to Michigan, I was so impressed… Everything just felt big time when I got there.”
Schembechler told Elliott’s parents he would transform their son, and they would not recognize him in a year. Elliott would go from 240 pounds as a freshman to playing at 320 pounds his senior year in large part due to the efforts of world-renowned strength and conditioning coach Mike Gittleson who Elliott described as the glue who held the program together. Offensive line coaches Elliot Uzelac and Jerry Hanlon also played a key in molding Elliott into a two-time First Team All-American who finished his with a then-school record 44 career starts by an offensive lineman.
“It’s extremely humbling to be inducted,” said Elliott. “My perspective is I am a lucky kid from Lake Ronkonkoma who had some great coaching and attended a world class school. I just got to play with some great players. Jimmy Harbaugh was my quarterback. Jamie Morris was my record-setting running back. So, how could I not look good when I had those kinds of guys?
“My fellow linemen were great. I played with All-American center John Vitale and Mike Husar and great tight ends Derrick Walker and Jeff Brown. I was surrounded by talent, and I was very fortunate. None of it is possible without being at Michigan and having the teammates that I had.”
The Wolverines went 10-1-1 his redshirt sophomore year after beating Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. It was a special season for the Wolverines who were never out of the fight even on a bad day, and Elliott recalled Schembechler saying he was prouder of the 1985 team than any other because they always fought back. He cited Jim Harbaugh’s 77-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to John Kolesar to clinch a home victory against Ohio State that year as one of his more memorable college moments.
His senior year, the Wolverines would beat Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl with Schembechler recovering at home from heart surgery. Elliott recalled Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey and Michigan’s Morris competing in “a track meet” and a rushing performance for the ages.
“It was very special because we wanted to win it for Bo who was stuck at home watching from his living room recuperating,” said Elliott.
Elliott developed a special bond with Morris, who had three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons and held the title as the Wolverines’ all-time leading rusher for 14 years. The two remain close, often speaking daily.
“You knew we were going to run behind Jumbo,” said Morris. “If you were a smart defensive team, wherever 72 was, you pretty much better get over there. Because if he’s got a one-on-one, he’s going to crush the guy in front of him and go down field and demolish the next guy. He was the proverbial pancake artist…. I was Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, and look at my size. He protected the hell out me.
“I cherish the moment [Jumbo’s induction] because as a running back you remember all the offensive linemen who helped you get there. I wanted it badly. Because if he goes in the Hall of Fame, I go into the Hall of Fame. I don’t look for personal accolades. I look out for him because of what he did for me and the things we did together.”
Jumbo Elliott joined the Giants as a second-round choice (36th overall selection) in the 1988 NFL Draft, from the University of Michigan. He played the first eight seasons of his 14-year career with the Giants. Elliott played in 112 regular-season games for the Giants. He was the starting left tackle when they defeated the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1993.
Elliot will be officially inducted during the 63rd NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 7.