Elmore searching for fit with San Diego Chargers
Former Wildcat Ricky Elmore searching for his place in the NFL, plus Q&A
Ever wonder what it’s like to live the life of an NFL journeyman?
Just ask former Arizona defensive end Ricky Elmore.
“It’s a crazy lifestyle,” he said in phone interview on Wednesday. “There’s so much uncertainty. One day I’m going on a plane to Seattle, the next day I’m getting called from Buffalo and then I sit there for three weeks and don’t hear from anyone.”
Like a struggling musician state-hopping in search of his big break, Elmore’s been all over the map in hot pursuit of the right fit in the NFL.
It seemed like he landed in a good situation when the 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. But with stud linebackers Clay Matthews and AJ Hawk ahead of him on the depth chart and only a couple weeks to learn the playbook and transition to linebacker due to the lockout, Elmore’s stint in Green Bay was short-lived.
“I kind of slipped through the cracks,” Elmore said. “I was having a little tougher time with the transition.”
After being released by the Packers following training camp, Elmore was out of work for almost four months. He worked out for a handful of teams and continued to train in hopes that an opportunity would arise.
The days, weeks and months passed by — still nothing.
Elmore contemplated bagging the NFL dream and pursuing other career opportunities, as being away from football for the first time in 15 years was becoming too much to handle.
But thanks to his family “pushing me through some of the hard times,” Elmore kept grinding and on Jan. 5, it paid off in the form of a practice squad offer from the San Francisco 49ers.
He stayed in San Francisco until the New York Giants eliminated the 49ers in the NFC Championship game and planned on signing a futures deal with the San Diego Chargers.
The day he was ready to ink a three-year rookie deal with the Chargers, the 49ers called and said, “We want Ricky so we’ll give him a futures deal and we want him to come up today,” Elmore recalled.
For the first time in his young NFL career, Elmore had options. While San Francisco was an enticing option for Elmore, he would be stuck behind five-time Pro Bowler Patrick Willis and rising star NaVorro Bowman.
“They’ve got some pretty great linebackers in San Francisco,” Elmore said. “In order for me to make it somewhere I need a shot.”
Elmore knew he could get that shot with the Chargers’ aging linebacker core, so on Feb. 6, the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder signed with San Diego, giving him stability that’s been absent during his NFL journey.
Since signing the deal, Elmore has taken on a new mindset. He said he’s more comfortable in the open field, and he’s going to do everything possible to stick in San Diego.
“I’m completely turned around. The stress is not there,” Elmore said. “I actually had an offseason to learn a playbook.”
Elmore will have some help in the form of former Arizona and current Chargers teammates Colin Baxter and Antoine Cason. Baxter and Elmore went on their official visits to Arizona together and were the first members of the 2006 recruiting class to commit to the Wildcats.
Cason was a star defensive back at Arizona during Elmore’s redshirt year and freshman season, and Elmore considered him a “great guy.”
“That was one of the reasons I decided on San Diego, I knew I would have both teammates helping me out,” Elmore said.
With help from former Wildcats, Elmore will have a chance to finally stick in San Diego. He knows what he’s been through to get this opportunity, and he’s pledged to do everything possible to make the most of it.
“I’m going to ride this out as long as I can. This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Elmore said. “I’m trying to rearrange my priorities in life and be all football. They like the way I play football so we’ll see what they use me as. I’m going to try and make an impact on special teams right away.”
Q & A
Elmore on if he’s been back to Tucson: “I was living there for about six weeks, seven weeks, then I went back to California. I ran seven on sevens with the team and worked out with them about two times a week.”
Elmore on meeting Rich Rodriguez: “He seemed like a cool guy. Every time I saw him he came straight up to me and said ‘What up.’ That’s the one thing I was worried about, was whether or not I’d be welcome back. He made it clear he wanted me around. The whole staff was pretty pumped to see all the former players.”
Elmore on Arizona players working toward the NFL draft: “Those guys are great athletes. They’re going to be fine. I think this year we’re going to have maybe three or four guys drafted.”