Former rugby star Elkins ready to lead OSU's defense
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
8/08/12 at 10:39 AM
STILLWATER - Asked whether he still plays rugby, Alex Elkins takes a long pause.
"No, I don't," he said, with a hint of sadness. "Not anymore. ... I do (miss it), but I'm very happy where I'm at right now. I can't miss it too much."
Elkins has reason to be pleased with his current situation. Heading into his senior season as an Oklahoma State linebacker, he has become one of the team's defensive leaders.
Not bad considering he didn't play football until junior college. At Keller (Texas) High School, he was MVP on a state-champion rugby squad and also participated in baseball and wrestling.
Unsure of his next move, Elkins attended an open football tryout four hours away at Blinn College and quickly developed into a junior-college standout.
"Honestly, I don't feel handicapped because I didn't play in high school," he said. "If anything, I feel like a diamond in the rough because I didn't have bad habits taught to me. I was able to come in and learn at this level so I'm able to play at this level."
His athleticism caught the eye of Cowboy coaches, and after he arrived in Stillwater last year he eventually won a starting role despite his inexperience.
"It was kind of tough in the beginning," Elkins said. "The more I see the offense, the more I start to understand routes and the easier it gets for me. The less I have to think, the faster I can play."
But the toughness that benefited Elkins in rugby carried over to the gridiron. In Week 2 against Arizona, he ran into another player, resulting in hyperextended knees and a sprained MCL.
"I've got to get up so I can keep playing - that's what I was thinking," he recalled. "As time passed on and I had to sit on that sideline, it just kept eating away at me.
"I remember the ESPN reporter ... walked over and said, 'Is he coming back in?' and I said, 'Yeah, I'm coming back in.' I went back in for a few plays and I realized that wasn't such a great idea. I just wanted to help my team."
Elkins found plenty of other opportunities to help his team as the season went on. He led the linebackers with 90 tackles while relying heavily on instinct, coach Mike Gundy said.
"He likes to play the game, so he could overcome a lot of mistakes," Gundy said. "The last four or five games he started to get lined up the majority of the time where was supposed to and understand reads and that sort of thing that guys in that position have to see in order to play effectively."
After a year in the system, even greater things are expected from Elkins.
"He really didn't know what his mistakes were last year," linebackers coach Glenn Spencer. "Now he knows what his mistakes were.
"If he keeps doing in camp what he ended up doing in spring, he will have a great senior year and the possibility to play after this year is over with."
Elkins also has taken it upon himself to be a vocal leader on and off the field.
"Hopefully after last year, I've earned a little bit of respect and people will listen and follow when I have something to say, because I do want to win and that's really what it's all about," he said.
"I'm going to do what I have to do to help our team win, and being a leader is one of those roles I'm going to have to play. I'm more than ready to do that."
Vs. Savannah State
6 p.m. Sept. 1
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: Elkins ready for leadership
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Oklahoma State's Alex Elkins is chased by Hayworth Hicks of Iowa State after Elkins made an interception during their football game in Ames, Iowa, last season. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World file