Warrior Sagas: Get to know Derek Ellingson
Here at the Utah Warriors, we recognize the value in our players and staff and their personal stories. Each is unique and brings their specific talents and experiences to the organization, enhancing the value of the team. Without them, there is no Utah Warriors!
In light of this, we wanted to allow you, Warriors Nation, the opportunity to get to know the players, coaches and staff, whom you love and support, a little better. Enter the “Warrior Sagas,” a multi-series in which we will highlight an individual player or staff member, a Warrior, on multiple platforms to share their stories with you.
A player that embodies the “underdog” spirit and finding your niche is Derek Ellingson.
Ellingson grew up in Antioch, California until he was 13. He then tragically lost both of his parents and moved to Concord, California with his younger sister to live with their uncle. Here, he attended De La Salle High School, where he began public speaking about his life and experiences.
Ellingson began playing hockey at age 3. He played all through high school and even into college. Through his public speaking, however, he was awarded a scholarship to Saint Mary’s College of California. Even though he received multiple D1 hockey scholarship offers, he chose to utilize his scholarship to Saint Mary’s and stay close to home and his family.
INTRO TO RUGBY
Ellingson was introduced to rugby while working as a lifeguard at the Saint Mary’s pool. Some of his coworkers played for the rugby team and began showing him the ropes.
“They would just bring a rugby ball, and I started passing around with them one summer,” Ellingson said. “That’s when I decided to start playing.”
Ellingson then went on to play touch and 7’s that same summer. He then joined the 15’s season the following fall.
He played hockey, soccer and rugby in college, but eventually settled on just rugby. However, he feels that both hockey and soccer helped him transition into rugby.
“I think hockey and soccer are the perfect balance to go into rugby,” Ellingson said. “Hockey is a very physical sport, and it’s also very fast-pace. And then, soccer is very long halves and ongoing, and as well as, I play wing, so kicking a lot is a big part of my game. So, the soccer definitely helped me out with the kicking, and the hockey helped me out with the hand-eye and physicality.”
One of the biggest differences that he noticed between hockey and rugby, though, was the fans.
“Playing a sport that’s actually on campus, where your friends get to come watch you play and you actually have like a fanbase, at home, on your own field, where you go to school, it’s just a really exciting environment,” Ellingson said. “I never had fans playing hockey.”
Ellingson said he gravitated toward playing wing because of his hockey background. He said because of hockey, he had a lot of stamina and endurance, and he was used to running a lot, being in the right position, covering big area spaces and staying on the move, which all translated well into a wing.
He also has experience at playing center, which he said enhances his ability to play wing.
“Once I started to learn the game a bit more, then I started playing a little bit more in the centers, which also helped me understand a lot more of what was going on around me when I do play wing,” Ellingson said.
Another way that hockey has shaped his game is in his style of play. Ellingson said he still has a lot of hockey in him as a rugby player.
“They say you go to a fight and a hockey game breaks out,” Ellingson said. “It’s kind of like the same thing; I think I bring a lot of tenacity and aggression to the game. I’m also very vocal … I try to be someone that you don’t want to play against but also try to be one of the hardest workers on my team and lead by example to the guys that are around me.”
Ellingson was selected by the Utah Warriors in the MLR Draft as the 1st round, 3rd overall pick. He will be joining the Warriors this next preseason in preparation for the 2021 season.
As someone who enjoys the outdoors and extreme sports, Ellingson is ready to make the move to Utah.
“I’m excited for the outdoorsy atmosphere in Utah,” Ellingson said. “The only thing I’m leaving at home in California is my surfboard. So, everything else, I’ll be bringing with me.”
In regard to what he is looking to bring to this next season, Ellingson is focused on soaking everything in from the experienced coaches and players around him.
“Just to learn from those guys that are very experienced and well versed in the game, I think that’d be my first step,” Ellingson said. “Keep a high work ethic and be ready to learn.”
To hear more of Ellingson’s story, watch the full video here.
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