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STS*: The Mindset of Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant

Posted Dec 7, 2013

*Special Teams Saturday

As the two shortest players on our team with a combined weight that just barely eclipses that of Damon “Snacks” Harrison’s program weight of 350 pounds, cornerbacks Ellis Lankster (5’9”, 190) and Isaiah Trufant (5’8”, 170) might not look too intimidating.

Ask any special teams observer about these guys, though, and you’d think they were describing two characters from a horror movie.

“Ellis and Trufant, they have been unbelievable all year,” P Ryan Quigley said. “They’re two of the top guys in the league at their positions. They’re both getting double-teamed and pretty much in the toughest scenario possible more often than not, and they’re still around the ball making plays. It’s awesome.”

Of course, sometimes a double team simply isn’t enough. Just ask Lankster about one of his kickoff coverage plays last week against Miami.

“I was running down the field like I normally do,” he recalled, “and I saw a wall of three people coming my way. I was like, ‘No, all three of them can’t be for me,’ so I tried to do a move to get around them, but all of them came and grabbed me. So I was just like, ‘It is what it is, somebody else is going to make the tackle.’

“I ain’t never been triple-teamed before last week,” Lankster added, and that goes for NFL, college and high school football. “It really shocked me. I wasn’t even mad. I was just doing my job.”

That leads to the question: What exactly is the job of a special teams player?

“Just overall we’re a group of hard workers,” Trufant said, “and no matter what happens on the play, good or bad, we know that we’re going to give it 100 percent effort. I’m going to give it my all every play, go out there and play to the best of my ability for my team.”

Maybe that’s just it. It takes a special kind of mindset to play special teams, the non-stop mentality of the Energizer Bunny mixed with the ferociousness of the Incredible Hulk.

“All I do is kick the ball,” Quigley said. “They do all the hard stuff. You can’t be a good punter without guys like that, so it’s almost like every week, ‘Dude, thank you,’ to show how appreciative I am.”

Our first-year punter’s not the only one with things to say to Lankster and Trufant after the game. Immediately following the conclusion of our loss to the Dolphins, Miami special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi sought them out to tell them that they were priorities 1 and 1A for him and his men in preparing for the game.

“On a personal level,” Trufant said, “that’s very humbling that they recognize what you do out there with all of your hard work, but our main focus is we have four games we’re trying to play to the best of our ability. When we’re out there, me, Ellis, the rest of the guys on special teams, we’re going to go out there and fly around.”

“Oh man, it’s an honor,” Lankster said. “To me that’s the best feeling in the world, because if another team’s coach tells me that, then I must be doing something good. It’s one of my best moments.”

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