Former Penn State Football Safety Keaton Ellis In Need Of Attention Before NFL Draft

The hometown kid could be one step from the NFL, folks.

After five years with Penn State football, safety Keaton Ellis is ready to move on. Ellis started for the Nittany Lions at least once in each season since 2019 and appeared in all but two games the Nittany Lions played during his four-year career. With his Penn State career in the rearview mirror, Ellis is preparing for a shot in the NFL, though he needs more looks from NFL teams before that happens.

Ellis first came to Penn State as a four-star recruit with high potential. A State College native and Penn State’s first commit of the 2019 cycle, Ellis chose the Nittany Lions over the likes of Syracuse, Notre Dame, and others. He was the No. 3 overall player in his home state, per the 247Sports Composite ratings, and the No. 30 cornerback in the country.

“Long, wiry frame with ability to add 10 or 15 pounds. Passes eye-ball test. Extremely athletic with plus mix of acceleration and speed,” 247Sports’ Brian Dohn wrote about Ellis as a high schooler. “Impact Power 5 multi-year starter as field corner. Likely a mid-round NFL draft pick.”

Ellis seemed destined to play for Penn State. His father, Bruce Ellis, was a walk-on for the Nittany Lions and worked for Penn State Athletics after his time as a player. Ellis grew up down the road from Beaver Stadium, playing his Friday night games for State College Area High School.

Ellis didn’t stay at cornerback at Penn State and switched to safety in his college years. He appeared in all 13 of Penn State’s games his freshman season and started once. He totaled 18 tackles, two passes defended, and an impressive three forced fumbles.

Those numbers remained relatively stable during Ellis’ Penn State tenure. He reached a high in tackles in 2022 with 24, the same year he peaked in passes defended with seven. During his final season, Ellis recorded 18 tackles and just one defended pass. He finished his collegiate career with four forced fumbles.

After Ellis’ final Penn State game in the Peach Bowl, he threw his name into the hat for the NFL Draft. He finished his career as a Nittany Lion with 56 appearances, 89 total tackles, 14 passes defended, and two interceptions.

The 5’11”, 190-pound Ellis wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine and instead showcased his skills for NFL scouts and coaches at Penn State’s Pro Day. In Holuba Hall, Ellis completed 13 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, recorded a 39″ vertical jump, and registered a 10’9″ broad jump.

At Pro Day, Ellis said he used the lack of an invitation to the combine as motivation.

“I took that added chip to my shoulder, and I worked that much harder,” Ellis said. “I know what times I can put out, and I know what I’m capable of.”

Despite being part of one of the nation’s best secondaries, Ellis hasn’t received much attention leading up to the draft. No draft experts have scouted him and posted reviews, and Ellis isn’t listed on any mock drafts.

Ellis will need some looks before the event kicks off in Detroit in the hope that the time he put in as a consistent member of the Nittany Lions’ defense will pay off. Still, he’s ready to use the lack of attention to his benefit as he tries to make his way into the league.

The NFL Draft will begin with its first round on Thursday, April 25, with the later rounds continuing through April 27. It’ll be televised on ESPN and NFL Network.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and Onward State's managing editor. He covers Penn State football, among other Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. For dumb stuff, follow him on Twitter (iamjoelister). For serious stuff, email him ([email protected]).

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