Not only is Ezekiel Elliott adding to a legacy, he’s quickening the pace.
“He has one speed,” his mother, Dawn Elliott, explained. “He’s always over the top, 110 percent.”
In other words, Ohio State’s freshman running back is picking up where previous generations left off.
His mother, the former Dawn Huff of Mount Ayr, was the Des Moines Register’s 1990 female high school athlete of the year. She’ll be cheering for scarlet and gray when the Buckeyes host Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“He just always loved sports,” Dawn said of Ezekiel. “Since he was a little guy, like maybe 2 … If he couldn’t find a ball, he’d get some socks balled up and throw them.”
Ezekiel’s grandfather, Leon Huff, played basketball for Drake, earning a place on the school’s all-decade team of the 1970s before embarking on a professional career in Finland.
Dawn was raised by her grandparents and blossomed into a four-sport star in Mount Ayr. She went on to run track for Missouri, where Dawn met and married Stacy Elliott, an outside linebacker on the Tigers’ football team.
You might think having parents who were NCAA Division I athletes would make the recruiting process easier for their son.
You would be wrong.
“So much has changed in this process from 25 years ago,” Dawn said. “Just with all of the social media … I don’t ever remember it being that overwhelming when I was recruited.
“I guess it’s because you had the home phone and there wasn’t call-waiting back then. You weren’t as easily accessible.”
The Elliotts settled in St. Louis, where Ezekiel grew into a 6-foot, 200-pound prospect with a four-star rating.
His first offer came from Arkansas. The second was from Iowa. Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame and more than a dozen others followed.
“Missouri was not one of the first schools to offer him,” Dawn said. “It took a minute for their offer to get out there.
“I don’t think that was the reason for him not choosing (the Tigers), but I think if Missouri had been one of the first to offer, I don’t think the other schools really would have had a chance.
As a result, the Tigers lost an early advantage.
“(Ezekiel) grew up at Missouri,” Dawn said. “Every year for the spring game, the old players actually have a reunion. So he’s been going to that for years, going to homecoming.”
It was Ohio State coach Urban Meyer who formed a bond with Ezekiel and his parents.
“After I did my research and we visited, he was just a normal guy,” Dawn said of Meyer. “You’re sitting in a room with him, and he just seems like the average Joe.
“You can tell he’s very intelligent, but just a humble guy.”
Ezekiel joined a Buckeyes roster stocked with talented tailbacks, but made a quick impression.
He’s played in five games, rushing for 201 yards on 22 carries (an average of 9.1) and scoring two touchdowns.
There have been a few growing pains, however.
“He’s like, ‘Mom, these holes close up a lot faster (than high school),’’’ Dawn recalled. “He’s catching up with the pace of the game.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s going so fast, but he’s still struggling with blocking those big linebackers.”