FARGO — Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Ben Ellefson grew up watching NFL stars like Houston Texas defensive end J.J. Watt, a perennial All-Pro who has been one of the best defensive players in the league during his career.
The former North Dakota State tight end had to block the 6-foot-5, 288-pound Watt on Sunday in Jacksonville’s 27-25 home loss against the Texans. Watt recorded his 100th career sack in that game.
“To go out there and block him and compete against him, you can only have that moment, you can only have that thought for a second, otherwise you’re going to get put on your butt,” Ellefson said. “Moments come and go and I try to appreciate them and then let them go because I’ve got to go out there and do my job.”
The Jaguars (1-7) are next scheduled to play at the Green Bay Packers (6-2) at noon Sunday, Nov. 11, at Lambeau Field.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Ellefson, from Hawley, Minn., has been on the active roster for four games this season, splitting time between the practice squad, and has yet to record a reception. He’s played a total of 75 offensive snaps and his snap total has increased each time out. Ellefson played 26 offensive snaps against the Texans.
“Doing well and putting good things on tape, that only builds trust between my play and what the coaches think of me,” Ellefson said. “The more that I can do that, the more I’m going to be able to play in the future.”
Ellefson has also been a special teams contributor for the Jaguars, playing 30 special teams snaps including kickoff return and more recently punt protection. While he hasn’t officially had a catch, Ellefson recently scored his first NFL points. He hauled in a two-point conversion in a 39-29 road loss against the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 25 at SoFi Stadium.
That was another moment in which Ellefson briefly soaked in the moment after he returned to the sideline.
“I was kind of sitting there thinking about how cool or special it was to be in that moment. It was only like for 10 seconds, but there was more game to play so you can’t really dwell on it too much,” Ellefson said.
Ellefson said he exchanged jerseys with Chargers backup quarterback Easton Stick after that game. Stick and Ellefson were teammates at NDSU.
Another former Missouri Valley Football Conference player has been a valuable resource for Ellefson during his first pro season. Jaguars tight end James O’Shaughnessy, who played at Illinois State, has been a mentor for Ellefson.
“He came from an FCS school, too. Just that grind of proving yourself and helping me with the little things,” Ellefson said.
O’Shaughnessy played for the Redbirds team that the Bison defeated 29-27 for the NCAA Division I FCS national title to cap the 2014 season. In that game, O'Shaughnessy had two catches for 44 yard and two touchdowns. Ellefson and O’Shaughnessy never played against each other in college.
“We have somewhat of a rivalry. We talk about the 2014 national championship game every once in a while and I like to rub it in a little bit,” Ellefson said with a laugh.
Rookie running back James Robinson, who also played at Illinois State, leads the Jaguars in rushing this season with 580 yards on 132 attempts through eight games.
Ellefson said the coronavirus pandemic has at times made it challenging to prepare for games. Earlier this season the Jaguars had to close their facilities for a brief time, like multiple NFL teams have this fall, and conduct football activities remotely.
“I’m very much a kinesthetics learner, learn by doing,” Ellefson said. “It definitely makes it harder. There are a lot of my teammates that are the same way. They learn by doing.”
Ellefson said his time at NDSU helped prepare him for the NFL in terms of being prepared physically and doing the right things off the field.
“You’re a pro and you’ve got to act like a pro,” Ellefson said. “You’re a professional now and people aren’t going to hold your hand, they are not going to tell you what you need to be doing. Your body is your business so you have to take care of your body.”