Ellis, a 6-1, 200-pound linebacker from Baton Rouge, La., became the first member of Northwestern's 2010 recruiting class when he announced his commitment to NU Tuesday.
If he wanted, Ellis could have waited awhile to make a decision. Weeks, even months. But in an interview with Purple Reign, Ellis said there was no point in waiting. The decision had been made."Originally I was into waiting, to see what offers come up," Ellis said. "But after being to Northwestern twice, I kept coming back to Northwestern. The first school I toured this summer was Northwestern, so it kind of set the bar – the academics, the people, the family."
Collin's father, Greg, was with his son on those recruiting visits. And father, like son, felt comfortable making a commitment.
"It's an early commitment," Greg said, "but it's like when you meet a girl and you know you're going to marry that girl. There's no point in waiting. He was thinking of waiting to commit, but if you're going to do it in September, you may as well do it now and get it out of the way."
Ellis, who also received scholarship offers from Tulane, Northwestern State and Southeast Louisiana, had gone through the waiting game during his recruitment. But he played the role of waiter.
Hometown LSU was interested in Ellis, and Ellis was interested back. But the Tigers weren't ready to make an offer. They wanted to wait.
"Whenever I was younger all I wanted to do was play at LSU," Ellis said. "But the way they do their recruiting at LSU, they tend to wait on the guys in state."
Waiting on LSU, Greg said, could eventually become a weight on Collin's back.
"He was talking to LSU and they said, ‘Hang on, we like you, just hang on,'" Greg said. "And I said (to Collin), ‘Hey, you can play this game, but they may play this game with you until signing day. They could wait until the guy in front of you makes a decision and then they may not be interested anymore.'"
According to Greg, Northwestern actually offered a scholarship to Collin weeks ago. In the midst of pondering the offers, Greg and Collin returned to NU last week, when about a dozen prospective Wildcats – all high school juniors – were invited to campus. That trip, and that time around the coaching staff, sealed the deal.
"An important factor was the coaches," Greg said. "These guys are teachers. They try to teach the guys the game, and I really liked that. And then on junior day, for example, every coach had his wife with him, he had his kids with him, and they introduced their kids, their spouses. Stuff like that – it's a close-knit family."
Collin also saw the coaches as teachers. While in Evanston, linebacker coach Randy Bates, who was in charge of recruiting Ellis, gave an impromptu tackling demo.
"They sat there and taught how to tackle," Collin said, "and talked in detail about tackling. I was siting there in boots and jeans, and (Bates) made me get in a stance and go through how to tackle in boots and jeans....
"Randy Bates – he's a crazy, energetic dude. He has that energy. I want to play for guys like that. I want to play for guys who love being teachers and not just coaches."
In addition to the coaches, father and son liked that head coach Pat Fitzgerald will likely redshirt the incoming freshman, allowing Greg to physically and mentally prepare for the jump from 2A football in Louisiana to Division I football in the Big Ten. The Ellises also recognize and appreciate that Northwestern is a top-flight academic school.
"The academics are something I felt like I could not pass up," Ellis said. "Nobody in my family has had the chance to go to a big-time school for academics."
What's more, Ellis is a linebacker. And as was discussed last week on Purple Reign, linebackers – including Ellis – say they like the idea of playing for Fitzgerald, who himself is a College Football Hall of Fame member.
Ellis has done his homework.
"He was a two-time All-American, two-time defensive player of the year," Ellis said. "He spends a few minutes every practice with the linebackers. Knowing where he's been and the achievements he's reached, you want to play for someone who has a passion for it. I saw him out there doing the drills with the players, and you want that as a player."
The only potential problem is one that Collin laughed off: the weather. That's not to say he doesn't know about the wind and biting cold that accompanies Evanston – "It's going to be cold, very cold, bitter cold," he said – but Ellis said that his experience as a hunter could come in handy.
"I hunt a lot, and it gets down to about 20," Ellis said. "I've spent five hours in a tree in 20-degree weather, so I'll get over that to play Big Ten football and play with people I want to play for. They care about more than just football. They're not just interested in the next four years; they're interested ion the next 40 years. So I'll get over the cold."
In addition to handling safety and linebacking duties in high school, Ellis also played some running back. According to NewOrleans.com, in 2008 he rushed 122 times for 804 yards – an average of 6.6 yards – and had nine touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes and netted 420 yards receiving.
On defense, Ellis received credit for 52 tackles and five interceptions. He has been clocked at 4.55 in the 40.