By Matt Popchock
In the second of Tuesday’s “two-a-days” edition of Know Your Pittsburgh Power, our brand new, hastily-assembled series that introduces you to the soon-to-be-familiar faces of your Arena Football League team takes a closer look at a former WPIAL standout and AFL veteran looking to add his leadership to what appears to already be a promising 2012 squad.
Beau Elliot (6’3″, 315 lbs.) spent the past three seasons as the starting center for the Chicago Rush. Despite preseason health concerns, Elliott was a stalwart up front while the Rush edged the Dallas Vigilantes for the Central Division title before losing to the Arizona Rattlers in the National Conference championship game.
The 29-year-old Brackenridge native earned Second Team All-Arena honors for similar efforts in 2010. His head coach that year was Mike Hohensee, who will forever be remembered for throwing the first official touchdown pass in AFL history as a member of the Pittsburgh Gladiators at the Civic Arena in 1987. Two years prior, Elliott was named to the league’s All-Rookie Team–yet another landmark in a long history of gridiron greatness for the former Golden Ram.
We’re certain his name would ring a bell with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s scholastic sports editor, Mike White. That’s because Elliott not only made his annual Fabulous 22 team as a senior at Highlands, but was voted by his peers as an All-Greater Allegheny Conference offensive lineman as just a sophomore.
In 2002 Elliott became the second offensive lineman in IUP football history to win the PSAC Freshman of the Year award, and made the all-conference team prior to graduation. One of young men for whom he blocked in college, Tyre Young, spent last year as a fullback for the Milwaukee Mustangs before being assigned to the East Division rival Power–a change to the Power’s offensive lineup that had head coach Chris Siegfried particularly excited this winter.
Those two also played together for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers of the now-defunct AF2 developmental league, where Elliott proved he could handle the rigors of a long season even before the AFL adopted the same sort of “enhanced” schedule the NFL and its fans have recently panned. The Pioneers won 17 of 20 contests in 2007 with Elliott up front, but bowed to a future AFL member, the then-Tulsa Talons, in ArenaCup VIII, the league’s championship game.
Furthermore, despite that hard knock, Elliott also got a nice taste of what life would eventually be like in the AFL from a financial standpoint. The league shut down for a year so it could restructure economically before relaunching in 2010.
So it should come as no surprise to Power fans if they see Elliott among the starting 21 when Pittsburgh opens its season in Orlando against the Predators Mar. 9, and it should come as less of a surprise Elliott is hungry for an ArenaBowl victory after also falling short with some very talented teams in Chicago.
“I’ve been to one championship game, losing on the final play, and I still at times get bitter about it,” Elliott said Monday, referring to that ArenaCup contest.
It was a 73-66 thriller that ended with a dropped would-be touchdown pass.
“For me the post-season accolades are worthless if you’re watching the playoffs and championships on TV at home. If we win a championship, we all share that success, and to me there would be nothing better.”
If he can stay healthy this year, it does seem his success will parallel the Power’s success. Pittsburgh started 7-4 but missed the playoffs with a 9-9 record in its return voyage to arena football. Part of that inconsistency stemmed from issues in the trenches, and not being able to keep a plethora of quarterbacks upright.
That should be less of an issue this season, now that the Power have upgraded the center position with Elliott. Plus, his comfort level will likely increase while working under the team’s second-year offensive line coach, John Sikora. Sikora, also a veteran AFL O-liner, was one of his original teammates in Chicago.
“I already had respect for John as a teammate and friend [before coming here],” Elliott said. ”He played a role in my progression as a player when I was a rookie. I look forward to working with him now as a coach.”
The Power allowed 34 sacks in 2011. That was the fourth-most in the league. It’s a number that will likely go down in 2012, but Elliott knows the only number that matters.
“In my eyes, nothing tops being a champion.”
WERE YOU AWARE? Elliot was part of a Highlands team that lost in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs to a West Allegheny team that was quarterbacked by future Pitt product and NFL journeyman Tyler Palko. One of Highlands’ prior victories came against former conference rival Pine-Richland. Those Rams were led by future Pittsburgh Power backup quarterback Kevin McCabe, who helped the franchise collect its historic first victory before being cut in the off-season.
The Power will play their first home game of the season Fri., Mar. 23, when the Philadelphia Soul come to town for an 8:00 P.M. kickoff. The 2012 regular season will feature nine games at CONSOL Energy Center, as well as expanded television coverage:
Click here for more information, including a full TV schedule.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)