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Fifth time is the charm


Forgive Jaguars defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison these days if he can't wipe the smile off his face. It's for good reason. Ellison signed a new multi-year contract with the Jaguars earlier this month, extending an NFL career that has hit several bumps and roadblocks.

"That is a huge deal for me," Ellison said.

The former Missouri standout has spent time on the practice squad of four different teams since 2005 – Carolina, Houston, Baltimore and San Francisco – before landing with the Jaguars 15 months ago. He was waived six times during the process.

Ellison entered the NFL as a third-round draft pick of the Panthers but never saw action as a rookie. He bounced around the NFL until the Jaguars decided to sign him off the 49ers practice squad in December of 2008 in hopes of him playing a role in 2009.

"I feel I missed out on a lot of years of football," Ellison said. "I was still around, still grinding, but I wasn't getting a chance to actually contribute when it came to game time."

Ellison made it impossible for the Jaguars to overlook him last preseason, as he seemed to gain compliments following each practice from the staff. He knew this was his last chance or he would have to look for another line of work.

"It was do or die for me," Ellison said. "I felt like I've always been a hard worker, but it was just the little things I did different. I tried to get more sleep. My family stayed in Missouri for the first two weeks. I didn't want to do anything except focus on football. I didn't have to drive home for anything. I could have been done forever and it could have been my last go around."

Instead, he earned a roster spot which was "a great feeling" and he played in 15 games with six starts.

"I don't really feel like I did too much different," Ellison said. "I feel like I was much more of a fit here from the time I got here. Coach Del Rio said we're going to get you in and give you time to learn, but we brought you here to play. He kept to his word and gave me a shot."

Even though he had been in the NFL for four years, Ellison's first action in a regular season game came in last year's season-opener at Indianapolis. He admitted to a few butterflies when he took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"I was too pumped up," Ellison said. "My brain was scattered. I never really got comfortable until that next game. Everything slowed down for me then."

The Jaguars saw enough of Ellison to make him a part of the future on a defensive line that included productive rookie Terrance Knighton and former Pro Bowler John Henderson. Ellison has been a regular at the stadium this offseason, working with Jaguars strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson. He currently weighs 318 pounds and would like to stay at that weight while limiting his body fat.

Following his first "real" NFL season, Ellison returned home to St. Louis with his wife, Jessica, and their two boys.

"I gave myself a little pat on the back at the end of the year," Ellison said. "But I wanted to wait until the end of the year. I'm not satisfied. I think I can start consistently and I definitely think I can play at a high level consistently. I'm looking to improve from where I left off last year."

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