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Ezekiel Elliott's greatness began in his mother's dream

Ezekiel Elliott was born a dream running back. Everyone sees his greatness, including himself.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- He is a dreamer and comes from a family of dreamers. Ezekiel Elliott was talking about this on Wednesday morning at an NFL Play 60 youth event. He said about the NFL draft kickoff on Thursday night: "This is my dream about to become reality. I have been working my whole life for this. I know someone is going to call my phone. And then someone is going to call my name."

And then some team will nab a dream of a running back.

He may be drafted as highly as No. 4 by the Dallas Cowboys. He will likely last no longer than No. 11 to the Chicago Bears. I talked to three general managers this week who said Elliott ranked in the Top 5 on their board. I talked to one who ranked him No. 1.

He averaged 6.7 yards a carry at Ohio State and finished as the school's second all-time leading rusher, behind Archie Griffin -- but Griffin calls Elliott the best OSU back ever. Elliott compiled five 200-yard rushing games, 22 100-yard rushing games and scored 43 rushing touchdowns.

But it is his blocking and receiving skills and his intelligence that helps make him a complete player. A clean player. A dream.

His mother, Dawn, recalls a dream she had the night before he was born. If she had a son, she said, she was considering naming him after Zeke Mowatt, the former New York Giants tight end and a close family friend. Her dream before childbirth sealed it.

"In my dream," she said, "I saw wheels spinning in the sky, just like the biblical story of Ezekiel and the wheels. It was a dream that had meaning. It would become his name. You want so much for your child, for them to experience more than you as parents ever did, to be better than you ever were. There are just no words for what is about to happen for him. All of our dreams are coming true."

* * *

You hear NFL general managers and scouts talk about clean players. Every draft, they look for the cleanest player.

What they mean by clean is which player is the least risk? Who has the most upside? Who has the production? Who has a minimal injury history? Who has strong character? Who has minimal football weaknesses?

"What can we live with?" an NFL general manager explained. "You can find something wrong or something you really don't like with every top player in this draft. Jared Goff? Don't like the small hands. Carson Wentz? Went to a small school with light competition. Ronnie Stanley? Is he tough enough? Jalen Ramsey? Is he a pure cornerback or just a great athlete that plays the position?

"And then you get to Elliott. Size, speed, productive, catches and can pass protect. Explosive, works hard, tough, smart, blocks, no issues off the field. This is a really clean player."

A dream player.

He is battling the notion that running backs should not be drafted highly in the first round or if at all in Round 1. The need for pass rushers and the fact the NFL game has spun toward passing offense have inclined teams to draft running backs in later rounds. Todd Gurley broke through last year as a No. 10 pick by the Rams. Elliott should leap higher.

NFL personnel people tell you to flip the switch. The video does not lie.

Elliott regularly produced explosive plays at Ohio State and in college ran like an NFL back. His balance and power and his bursts and effort are unmistakable.

"Watch the film," Elliott says. "I think I've done the things a running back is supposed to do. I've given it all from my combine to my pro day to my meetings with teams. To me, a good running back is a good defense. A good running back helps you keep your defense off the field.

"I'm a versatile guy. I'm a third-down back. I've worked on my game and I don't think it has any holes, no weaknesses. I say that with humility, because you can always work to get better. But I run inside, I run outside and I'm just not a guy you have to take off the field for certain packages."

The teams that pass on Elliott will regret it.

Many NFL executives say no player is NFL great until they do it in the NFL.

I see greatness for Elliott.

He sees it. He dreams it.

"Coach (Urban) Meyer used to tell us at Ohio State about being someone else's shining light," Elliott said. "He used to talk about the importance of that in how we treated people and how we played. I know I can do that on the NFL level. I can't control where I will play, so, I'll just grind and give maximum effort every practice and every game and work hard and be consistent. And just keep dreaming. And remind myself every day of all I did and all it took to get there."