Holy Spirit High School football defensive tackle Ray Ellis III visited Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., last week and said it felt like home.
The school will become his home. Ellis committed to Florida Atlantic over the weekend and will receive a full athletic scholarship to play football for the Owls.
He'll sign a national letter of intent on Feb. 5 at Holy Spirit.
"The school was right near the beach, and I live not far from the beach (in Egg Harbor Township)," said Ellis, a 17-year-old senior. "I liked that."
The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Ellis was a four-year starter in high school at defensive tackle. He played his freshman year at St. Augustine Prep and transferred to Holy Spirit, where he helped the Spartans to state titles in 2011 and 2012. Holy Spirit went 11-1 in 2013, losing only to DePaul Catholic in the state Non-Public II championship game.
Ellis also visited Bowling Green University (Ohio) and the University of Delaware.
"Florida Atlantic has assembled a great staff coaching staff, and the weather there is great," Ellis said. "They also have a great academic support team to help the athletes keep up with their studies, and that's important in today's society. I went to the campus, and everything there is brand new."
One of Florida Atlantic's new coaches is Roc Bellantoni, who recruited Ellis while coaching at Villanova. Bellantoni is the Owls' co-defensive coordinator, with an emphasis on the defensive line. Charlie Partridge is the team's new head coach.
Florida Atlantic, of the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, plays in Conference USA against opponents such as Marshall, Tulsa and East Carolina. The Owls were 6-6 in 2013 but won their last four games.
Florida Atlantic will open the 2014 season with road games against national powers Nebraska (Aug. 30) and Alabama on (Sept. 6).
"Sometimes I feel like people make teams bigger than they are," Ellis said. "It's the game of football, and I'll prepare the same way. I'm not scared of those teams. I'm embracing it."
Ellis, who was a first-team Press All-Star in the fall, had five sacks as a senior. He described himself as "balanced" in pass rushing and run stopping.
Holy Spirit coach John Iannucci said, "Ray is very, very athletic. He runs exceptionally well for a kid his size, and that's the key to defense.
"They'll put more weight on him in college. He's going to a good conference. I know he wanted to play Division I, and that's good for him."
Ellis also is 12-0 this season as a wrestler in the 285-pound class. He's ranked No. 1 at that weight by The Press. Last year, Ellis was a District 32 runner-up and a state qualifier.
"A lot of them are bigger than me," Ellis said of his wrestling opponents. "There was only one week until the wrestling season after football ended this year. I was in shape, and so far it's gone pretty well."
Ellis plans to major in marketing.
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