- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

NEW ORLEANS Every NFL team has staff assistants, generally fresh from a couple of years of college coaching, who'll do almost anything for that first job in the pros. Super Bowl favorite St. Louis has a staff assistant for its high-powered offense, too. But the Rams' man in that position has a very different background.
He's Henry Ellard, who retired in 1998 after 16 seasons with 814 catches, the sixth most in NFL history, and 13,777 yards, the third most.
"That Henry's working as an offensive assistant after having such a great career during an era when the players made big money, tells you that he has a great passion for football," said veteran Rams offensive line coach Jim Hanifan, who was on Washington's staff when Ellard was the Redskins' leading receiver in 1994, 1995 and 1996.
"It's amazing how it came about," Ellard said. "At the start of the 1998 season, I was out of football, but I was still hoping to play one more year. One day when I was working out, I picked up the newspaper and read that a small, private high school had lost the coach it had just hired. I had never really thought about coaching, but my heart went out to those kids and I decided to volunteer to help out the new coach.
"We only had 16 players, half of whom had never put pads on before. We only won one game, but I got a kick out of it. The kids showed so much determination. They never gave up even if we were losing 50-7. I was signed by New England halfway through the year, finished up the year with Washington and then officially retired and went back to the kids."
Last year Ellard was a volunteer coach at his alma mater, Fresno State, the school to which Rams coach Mike Martz had recruited him in 1979. After just one season on the college level, Ellard was hired by Martz, the Rams' offensive assistant in 1992 and 1993, when Ellard was the team's top wideout, and the Redskins' quarterbacks coach in 1997 and 1998.
"Henry is much further along than I thought he would be," Martz said. "Usually, there's a real transition period for former players in terms of being willing to get in early and stay late, doing all the little things like walking to everybody's offices and handing out the practice plans and game plans. But Henry's at work before I am."
Said Ellard: "I try to pass on to my guys the little things that helped me during my career, things about running routes and how to get leverage on a cornerback."
Those guys include Pro Bowl receivers Isaac Bruce who grew up watching Ellard and inherited his job and number in 1994 and Torry Holt, but both were eager to learn from the master route-runner.
"Henry has brought us added energy, and since he played the game, he knows how to relate to us," Holt said. "He has a great respect for this game and he doesn't let us lose sight of that. He's always smiling, always encouraging. You want to play well for him."

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