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Tigers' Elliott rewarded for comeback from back surgery with All-State selection


A phone call from Ozark coach Jeremy Cordell on Friday put burgeoning linebacker Parker Elliott in reflective mode and gave him pride in the work he put in leading to and throughout his junior season.

Elliott has been rewarded for his efforts with his selection to the Missouri Football Coaches Association’s Class 6 All-State Third Team.

“I was sitting in math class, and coach Cordell called me,” Elliot said. “He was like, 'I've got good news.' He told me about it and I was shocked. With all the emotions I was feeling, the first thing I thought of was I had to tell my parents because they have helped me get here.

“This propels me to shoot for First Team next year," he added.

Joining Elliott as All-State selections are Nixa senior safety Spencer Ward and sophomore offensive lineman Jackson Cantwell on the First Team and Eagles junior offensive lineman Jacob Lile on the Third Team.

Surely, not many of the All-State honorees endured the arduous trail Elliott was forced to take. His sense of fulfillment is special. After all, this time last year he was preparing for herniated disc surgery in January.

It was reported a year ago Elliott missed the final game of his sophomore season with a back injury. But not many people outside of his inner circle knew the full extent of his injury and that he was going under the knife.

Even throughout this past season, he never let it slip he had underwent surgery.

"I didn't want that out there — no excuses,” Elliott said while talking publicly about his surgery for the first time. “Now that I came through it 100 percent healed, I think it's okay to talk about it. When I look where I came from in January to now in December, it’s great to see.”

Elliott managed 54 tackles his sophomore season, despite relentless pain in his lower back. Finally, he sat out Ozark’s season finale.

“Playing through it all year was a mental battle,” he said. “When we got the MRI results back, my parents said, ‘You better not play.’ We think (the disc was damaged) from heavy weightlifting, lifting too much weight as a 14-year-old. I was hurting really bad. I knew I needed the surgery. I was very scared going into it.”

The ensuing 4-5 months of rehab was taxing.

“To be honest, it sucked,” Elliott said. “I knew if I wanted to be back on the field I had to do it and follow every step. I couldn't do anything for a while. I had to let it heal and get my back moving the way it used to. It was really tight. I was constantly loosening it up and stretching. I had physical therapy three times a week.”

His back absolutely responded as well as could be expected.

“Light year's difference,” Elliott said while comparing how he felt physically this year compared to a year ago.

Elliott topped Ozark this year with 136 tackles, including 58 solo stops. He posted four TFLs, forced three fumbles and had one quarterback sack.

In Ozark's Class 6 District 5 first-round win at Waynesville, he collected 11 tackles and ran for 87 yards. He had a season-high 20 tackles in Week Eight against Branson.

Like almost all of the Tigers, Elliott displayed resilience by not letting Ozark’s seven-game losing streak suppress his progress.

“When you’re losing, you can't put the blame on anyone. All you can do is keep working hard and do your job,” Elliott said. “I feel like coach Cordell pushed everyone to be better and not have a loser's mindset. We were always trying to win the next play. 

“Something I live by is to never give up,” he added. “I don't want to be labeled as one of those kind of guys who give up.”

Ozark’s 2-8 record likely had much to do with Elliott having to settle for receiving All-COC honorable mention recognition last week.

“When that came out, my first emotion was I was pretty upset,” he said. “I thought I deserved more with how I played. I recognized the team did not perform well.”

Looking ahead, Elliott is anxious to dive into a full-fledged off-season of strength and conditioning.

“I'm looking forward to putting on as much muscle as I can and get faster. I'm trying to improve every week,” he said. “I hope I can elevate my play and that will help elevate the players around me and we will have a better record.”