PG North: Highlands graduate snaps up starting job in Arena Football League
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Beau Elliott had no interest in making a career out of playing in the arenafootball2 league.
"If you saw the paycheck, you would understand," he said.
A 2001 Highlands High School graduate, he made $250 for each victory and $200 for every loss while playing center for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers the summer of 2006. That amounted to $3,850 for a 9-8 season.
"And that was before taxes," Elliott added.
Elliott's goal was to make the jump from af2 to the more-popular, and better paying, Arena Football League. But that didn't happen after his first season, and Elliott gave himself one more year before he would give up playing professional football.
In 2007, the Pioneers went 17-3 and advanced to the championship game, and Elliott was named to the af2 first-team. That success helped him achieve his goal of landing a job in the Arena Football League.
Elliott, 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, is currently the starting center for the Chicago Rush, who were 4-2 this season and in first place in the Central Division heading into Monday's game at the Kansas City Brigade, which will be televised on ESPN2.
"After that first year, I would be lying if I told you I didn't have doubts," said Elliott, who was a three-year starter at IUP.
"I was really stuck. I knew I couldn't play in [af2] forever. I decided to give it one more shot. As fate would have it, I got on a good team, and we made a good run. Our team's success really helped to put me out there. It really opened some coaches' eyes."
In this case, the coach was Mike Hohensee, who led the Rush to the ArenaBowl title in 2006 and once played quarterback for the now-defunct Pittsburgh Gladiators.
"He is doing a good job," Hohensee said about Elliott. "He has been challenged by a couple of talented [defensive linemen] already and has done well."
Elliott, 25, signed a two-year contract with the Rush in November.
"So far, as a team, we're sitting pretty good," Elliott said. "As for myself, I think I'm progressing. There was a jump, a noticeable jump, coming into this league. The transition from college to af2 was not as difficult as af2 to the Arena League. There's a little more experience here, and I have to raise my play to compete at this level."
The Arena Football League is in the second year of a five-year television deal with ESPN.
But one thing Elliott said he hasn't noticed so far this season is the TV cameras.
"The only time I can really tell is during the TV timeouts," he said. "It hasn't fazed me. Everything we do on the practice field is filmed, so I'm use to the cameras. Now, it's a million people watching instead of just an offensive line coach."
Elliott said his teammates have helped his transition to the Arena Football League.
He singled out quarterback Sherdrick Bonner, a 14-year veteran of the AFL who was named one of the 20 greatest players in the league's history in 2006, and wide receiver Damian Harrell, a nine-year vet who is among the league's all-time leaders in receptions, touchdowns and receiving yards.
"Playing with those guys has been an eye-opener," Elliott said. "They're future Hall of Famers. I watch what they do and see what I can incorporate into my game."
Long-term, Elliott hopes to emulate Bonner, who has spent time on the roster of four NFL teams.
"As a player in this league, I've seen a few players who could make that jump to the NFL," Elliott said. "Everybody hopes it's them. Hopefully, someone will notice and give me a shot. If that opportunity arises, great.
"Until then, I'm going to make the best out of being in this league."
Hohensee believes Elliott has a chance for a lengthy career in the Arena Football League.
"If Beau continues to improve, he will play football as long as he wishes in our league," he said. "He has a tremendous work ethic, and is willing to listen to his teammates and coaches."
Currently, Elliott lives in Schaumburg, Ill., which is about 30 miles from downtown Chicago and 15 miles from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., where the Rush play their home games.
Once this season ends, he plans to return to his offseason home in Brackenridge and work for a rental company in Lower Burrell -- the same job that helped him make ends meet during his days in af2.
Not that it's a problem for him anymore.
"A lot of guys in the Arena Football League make good money," said Elliott, who declined to discuss the specifics of his contract.
"You have to take into consideration, most teams, if not all, pay rent for their players. You get full benefits year-round. It's a really good life. It's not the NFL, but guys are making $100,000 for playing football.
"I can't see a better profession for myself."
First Published April 10, 2008 12:00 am