By Marty Farmer
Move over former Philadelphia Eagles player Vince Papale (played by actor Mark Wahlberg in the movie, "Invincible"), Jake Elliott's journey to the NFL seems straight out of a Hollywood script as well.
Elliott kicked three field goals and made two of three extra points in the Eagles' 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. Elliott's 11 points included a pair fourth-quarter field goals (42, 46 yards) to help fend off the Patriots' repeated rallies.
"I am continually amazed with Jake's poise under pressure," said Lyons Township football coach Kurt Weinberg, who coached Elliott in high school. "I was nervous on that 46-yarder in the fourth quarter [of the Super Bowl], but he looked cool as a cucumber.
"Just like the Super Bowl, some of my greatest recollections of Jake are his ability to handle big moments. He always stepped up and nailed a kick when we needed it."
Indeed, the NFL champion's road to glory began at LTHS. More specifically, Elliott kicked a pair of 30-yard field goals as a freshman during a 2009 homecoming pep rally. That's pretty impressive stuff, considering Elliott was neither on the football team at the time nor held much interest in playing the sport.
Elliott, a good all-around athlete who played baseball, basketball and soccer, excelled in tennis during his prep days. He was regarded as one of the best young tennis players in the state.
However, after a few years of close observation and consistent persuasiveness by Weinberg and assistant coach Jason Brauer, Elliott decided to join the football team in 2011. Weinberg and Brauer never forgot the kicking exhibition Elliott put on at the aforementioned pep rally.
During his debut campaign as a junior with the Lions, Elliott kicked a 52-yard field goal with no time remaining to defeat conference rival Oak Park and River Forest 16-14. A week later, Elliott nailed a 47-yard field goal in the closing seconds to beat York 29-27. He earned first-team All-State recognition from the Chicago Tribune.
During his senior year, the Western Springs native made 15 of 21 field goals.
After a prolific college career at Memphis during which he set several school records, Elliott entered the 2017 NFL draft. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 153rd pick in the fifth round.
Although he lost out to Randy Bullock for the kicker position on the Bengals, the Eagles signed him off the Bengals' practice squad to replace their starter, Caleb Sturgis, who was placed on the injured reserve with a hip injury.
One door closes, another opens
Similar to his immediate success at LTHS, Elliott came up huge for the Eagles early. In just his second NFL game, Elliott kicked a 61-yard field goal on the final play, lifting the Eagles to a 27-24 win over the New York Giants. Elliott's epic kick was the longest in Eagles history and seventh longest in field goal in NFL history.
"When Jake made that 61-yarder against the Giants, [Eagles quarterback] Carson Wentz offered him his game check," Weinberg said. "Jake refused and it got donated to charity. That gesture shows Jake is such a great kid. He is humble and a man for others."
Since that clutch performance against the Giants, Elliott has continually produced for the Eagles when it's mattered most. He made three field goals in the divisional round of the playoffs in a 15-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Against the Minnesota Vikings with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake, Elliott made all of his kicks and scored eight points in a 38-7 rout in the NFC championship game.
As a 5-foot-9, 170-pound rookie, Elliott has already notched six kicking records. He has set three new records for the Eagles, longest field goal (61 yards), longest field goal in the playoffs (53 yards) and most 50-yard field goals in a season (5). The aforementioned 61- and 53-yard kicks are also NFL records for longest regular season kick and playoff kick, respectively, by a rookie. And he owns the longest kick (46 yards) for a rookie in Super Bowl history.
On the season, Elliott has made 26 of 31 field goals for an accuracy make of 83.9 percent as the Eagles finished 16-3.
For all his exploits, Elliott's classiest and most caring move recently occurred away from the gridiron. He decided to donate the proceeds from the sale of t-shirts made by LTHS in support of his remarkable rookie season to the Kelli Joy O'Laughlin Memorial Foundation.
O'Laughlin was a classmate of Elliott's and they enjoyed playing tennis together. O'Laughlin was killed when she was 14 by an intruder in her family's house in 2011.
"Jake is a great person, very humble and kind," Weinberg said. "Great things do happen to great people. The football program, school and community are so proud of him. What a great felling at LT."