He was Ohio State's best player in its most important game of the season. He torched Nick Saban's vaunted defense like no back had for a decade. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer called him "a monster."
And yet, despite all of this, star running back Ezekiel Elliott cannot go pro.
Elliott graduated high school in 2013, and because the NFL stipulates that a player must be three years removed from high school graduation in order to enter the draft, Elliott would be barred from submitting his name for this year's selection.
This isn't a new rule, and it has been challenged before. But with Elliott's stellar turn in Monday's championship game -- he had 36 carries for 246 yards and four touchdowns -- some are wondering whether Elliott should think about turn pro.
Florio and Gregory both note that Elliott's stock will likely never be as high as it is now. And with an ever-present risk for injury -- former Georgia running back Todd Gurley and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore both suffered knee injuries that affected their draft stock -- it seems risky for Elliott to have to play another year in college. Florio says Elliott should leave the Buckeyes and prepare for the 2016 draft. Gregory says its unfair to bar Elliott from the draft.
Of course, Elliott isn't the first Ohio State running back to raise questions about the NFL's age restrictions after a strong national championship performance. A decade ago Maurice Clarrett sued the NFL for not letting him enter the 2004 draft. As a true freshman, Clarrett was the leading rusher on Ohio State's 2002 national championship team.
Clarrett's story has become a cautionary tale. He lost the appeal and was forced to wait until 2005. He was selected in the third round of that year's draft by the Denver Broncos but he never played a down in the NFL. He encountered various legal and financial woes after getting cut by the Broncos.
Clarrett on Wednesday offered his opinion on the topic in an Instagram post:
The lawyer who represented Clarrett in his failed attempt to go pro early, Alan Milstein, apparently isn't on the same page as his former client. Milstein told Time that he thinks the NFL's rule is illegal.
“The only reason a team wouldn’t draft Elliott is because they’ve all said we won’t draft him if you won’t draft him,” Milstein said. “That’s the essence of an anti-trust conspiracy.”
Of course, this will only become an issue if Elliott expresses any desire to turn pro. And as Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel notes, that hasn't happened yet:
Did I miss the part where Ezekiel Elliott said he wanted to turn pro early? Whole lot of discussion for a non-existent story.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) January 14, 2015