Former Columbus High football legend Adrian Ellis was found shot to death in his car outside an apartment complex in Homestead. He was just 35 years old. I was saddened to hear about Ellis's death after seeing an article in the Miami Herald yesterday.
I had never met Ellis. In fact, I hadn't heard his name in over a decade But I can recall reading about his exploits on the football field back in the late 1980s when he was a student athlete for the Columbus Explorers.
He was one of the most dominant defensive backs to play in Dade County during the 80s. Ellis wasn't very big at 5'9 and 180 pounds. But he was very quick and versatile. He could play virtually every skill position on both offense and defense. I remember back in the days when WLRN Channel 17 used to televise local high school football games. Ellis was one of those players who jumped off the screen and made a huge impression on me. It seems just like yesterday he was playing quarterback, receiver, defensive back and sometimes lining up at running back. He literally seemed like a one-man team.
Ellis graduated from Columbus High with a 3.15 GPA in 1990. He was recruited by virtually every major program in the South. The Miami Herald chose Ellis to its all-decade team for the 80s and named him the 4th best prospect in Dade County and the 15th best player in the state. He was All-State and a prep All American. I can remember being excited as a Canes fan when I learned Ellis had announced he would attend the University of Miami. He seemed destined for stardom.
More than 17 years later, I had never heard from him again--until now. Ellis never played a down for the Canes. He was thrown off the team by then head coach Dennis Erickson after several arrests--including armed robbery. Ellis had led a very reckless and troubled life. Ellis was arrested 13 times since he turned 18 in 1990. He spent nearly 20 months in jail before resurecting his college football career at the University of Central Florida, where he also was a backup centerfielder on the baseball team.
When his college career ended, he returned to the projects in South Miami where he grew up. He later became a community activist and a respected youth football coach for the South Miami Grey Ghosts Optimist Club--a program that has competed regularly for state championships. In an attempt to get his life back together, Ellis pursued a career in local politics. Three times he ran for a City of South Miami commission seat. But due to his extensive arrest record and troubled past, he lost in all three elections. According to the Miami Herald, Ellis chaired the Head Start Policy Council made up of parents of kids in the program, and he's been a board member for the county's Community Action Agency for the past six years.
Ellis was a man of extremes with plenty of demons. Depending on what you read, one report said he fathered 11 children from several relationships. Another article listed 15 children. His oldest child is currently a senior at South Miami High School. He also has a son Adrian Jr. who plays football at Columbus High. He lived with some of his children near the South Miami Parks and Recreation Department, where he worked as a youth football coach.
But the same mean streets he tried to clean up as an activist and politican finally caught up with him. Police found Ellis dead Tuesday night in his car outside the Riverwalk Apartments in Homestead.