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Water Break with Christian Elliss


Christian Elliss is one of 12 children, but the way he sees it is he has "11 best friends" ranging from age 26 to 10.

The 22-year-old is the third-oldest who has been raised by former Lions and Broncos defensive lineman Luther Elliss, a first-round pick by Detroit in 1995 who later worked in Denver as chaplain for the team.

Christian has been a high school star in two states (Utah and Colorado) and an all-conference player in a third (Idaho). The two-time All-Big Sky First-Team selection with the Vandals participated in spring football games after Idaho postponed its 2020 fall season, turned around quickly to turn in an impressive pro day and was this year's "Prospect X" in Sports Illustrated's pre-draft mystery miniseries.

Although Christian went undrafted two years after his brother, Kaden, was a seventh-round selection of the Saints, one of a dozen siblings is trying to become one of 53 on Minnesota's season-opening roster.

Trying to land with the Vikings is an audible for the rookie who grew up as a Lions fan.

"I had to shed that one quickly," Christian said. "I'm always going to be appreciative of that organization and what they did for my family, but other than that, that's as far as it goes."

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

We caught up with Christian recently for a Water Break, presented by Crown Royal.

Q: Despite your family's long experience with the NFL, has there been anything you've encountered that you didn't expect?

A: "The accountability they hold you to as a rookie. I was always taught, not from my dad, but in high school and college, that you give the younger guys a little bit of time. We got a little bit of that in rookie minicamp, but right after that, you're held accountable.

"That's the point. This is a job. It's a game, it's fun, but it's also work, so I had to figure out that balance because I was taking it more, 'It's fun. It's OK if I don't spend as much time on film and don't go as hard all the time because I'm a rookie.'

"One, that's a poor attitude. Two, that will get you fired, and three, I want to be the best I can be, so having that attitude is not going to allow me to do that. Coach Adam Zimmer really drilled that into me. This is all fun and games, but it's also work. You have to do your job, study to know your plays so that when you're out there you're not a deer caught in the headlights, which I was like. It was a great learning curve, so I'm excited for the rest of camp."


Q: You have the opportunity to learn from Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. What have they shared about the lessons they learned a few years back?

A: "They've always been great linebackers, and it was comforting for them to be like, 'Dude, when I was a rookie, those first few practices, you mess up a lot.'

"Luckily they're so knowledgeable in the entirety of the defense from the safeties to the defensive line, so being able to work with them has been amazing, a gift from God, really, to be able to watch them and see them play. It really showed there's some guys that stand out there like Anthony and Eric who really have the athletic ability and the smarts. Something they showed me, really, is the most important part is your brain, how you think on the field, the quicker you can react, because everybody pretty much has the same athleticism. Some are a little above, some are a little below, but it's all about your mental [game]."

Q: How wild was your pre-draft process with Idaho moving football to the spring and you having an improvised pro day?

A: "[My pro day] was a day-and-a-half after a game. I got through my pro day, and luckily God allowed me to perform. I was a little sore, but it worked out. It was a little hectic, and I don't know if I ever want to do that again."

Q: When your dad was in his pre-draft process, he had been advised to not do some workouts and later regretted the decision. Did that experience help push you through your workout?

A: "Yes. Something my dad always taught me that he learned at that stage is do whatever the coaches ask of you, because they're your employer, so whatever they ask, I'll do it. If they ask you to 'Carry this weight,' you say, 'How far?' "

Q: Based on Sports Illustrated's Prospect X reports, the third day of the draft sounded like it was pure chaos. Take us through what it was like.

A: "You never want to be that guy who falls through, but I ended up being that guy. Fell through and had like 14 teams calling me. I have one phone, so teams were like, 'I couldn't get ahold of you. I'm texting.'

"I ended up having to use my dad's and brother's phones, three phones going at once, and got down to four teams. [Vikings General Manager] Rick [Spielman] just really set it over for me. He knows my dad, and my dad knows him from the Lions days. Everything I've heard about Rick, he's an amazing guy. I wanted to be able to work with him."

Q: Do you get any swag, like a jersey, for your participation?

A: "It didn't really come with much. It was just a blessing to be recognized. I'm not a big social media guy."

Q: Was it tough to keep the fact you were Prospect X a secret?

A: "No, because at the time of the draft, I deleted all social media from my phone. I actually just redownloaded Instagram the other day just to start getting back into it."

Q: How important is your faith to you?

A: "It's huge. It's everything. Football is going to come and go. Money is going to come and go. If I'm smart, it doesn't matter when I die. I can't take anything with me. The only thing I can take is my heart and soul, so my faith is everything. God comes first, before relationships, before football."

Q: How long was your dad a chaplain with the Broncos?

A: "He did that for two years and then came out to Idaho. Now he's a chaplain out there. It's been awesome to see God's work out there, changing the culture of Idaho, because when I got there, it was not very good, but luckily everybody has had a change of hearts. Everybody is enjoying themselves now. A lot of people are going to Christ, so I'm loving it. I'm so proud of my dad and my family and the Vandals."

Q: Not many people know about Moscow, Idaho. What's the vibe out there?

A: "It's a small town. Everybody is friendly. Everybody is kind. There's some good underground eating spots, and then there's a lot of outdoor activities, so it's my kind of town."

Q: Given your ties to the Broncos, how special is it to have the joint practices and open the preseason? Did you go to many of their practices?

A: "I watched a few of theirs, and it was back when Peyton Manning was still playing, so it was awesome to be able to go there and watch him."