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All-time UNC Football Top 25 Countdown: No. 11 Greg Ellis

Ellis is one of just four UNC players named First-Team All-ACC three times

Greg Ellis

This summer, Tar Heel Blog will profile the top 25 players in the history of the North Carolina football program. The rankings were determined by votes from readers and staff.

Growing up in Wendell, North Carolina, Greg Ellis was always a fan of the Tar Heels. He stated that the player he imitated as a kid was Lawrence Taylor. It was a perfect choice for that young man as Ellis was able to join Taylor in the upper echelon of defensive linemen in school history.

As chronicled previously, the 1997 team was one of the best in North Carolina Tar Heels history. For the second straight season, the defense led the way. The star-studded defense was ranked second in the country and carried the team to an 11-1 record.

Career at UNC

Greg Ellis Career Statistics

Year Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
Year Total Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks
1994 24 5-29 4-27
1995 71 9-64 7-62
1996 62 18-121 12.5-99
1997 87 18-79 9-65
Totals 224 50-293 32.5-253

Ellis is the career sacks leader at UNC with 32.5 sacks. He broke the record in 1997 that was set by Marcus Jones just two seasons prior.

His 12.5 sacks in 1996 are the third-most in a season at Carolina. Ellis ranks third on the career tackles for loss list with 50.

Honors and Awards

Ellis was a two-time captain, serving in that capacity in his junior and senior seasons. He is one of only four Carolina players to be a three-time First-Team All-ACC selection. Ellis was also named to the Academic All-ACC team in 1997.

In 1996, Ellis was named an All-American. The next year, he was named a First-Team All-American. Because of this achievement, his #87 jersey is honored at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Ellis was a finalist for the Lombardi Award in 1997, honoring the most outstanding college lineman in the country.

Ellis was named an ACC Legend in 2014.

Top Games at UNC

When the Tar Heels traveled to Raleigh in 1997, the Wolfpack jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. After the first quarter, the Carolina defense dug in and did not allow another NC State point. Ellis racked up 10 total tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks in the eventual 20-7 UNC victory over NCSU.

Three weeks later, Carolina went to Death Valley to battle Clemson. At that point, UNC had not won at Clemson since the 1980 ACC Championship season. Once again, Ellis and the defense stepped up. Ellis had 14 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and two sacks. A late game interception by Dré Bly sealed the 17-10 Tar Heel victory.

After UNC

Ellis was selected eighth overall in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He spent 11 seasons with Dallas, and was a starter for most of his career.

Panthers v Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In a November 2006 game against the Arizona Cardinals, Ellis tore his Achilles' tendon. He remained sidelined through the first three games of the next season. Ellis went on to start 10 games in the 2007 season and registered a career-high 12.5 sacks. His single-season career high in sacks in the NFL matched his single-season career high at Carolina. Ellis was named to the Pro Bowl and won the AP Comeback Player of the Year award for 2007.

After he was released by the Cowboys in 2009, he signed with the Oakland Raiders. Ellis spent one season with Oakland before he was released and retired from the league. He started 169 out of the 176 total games he played in the NFL. During his 11-year career, he amassed 84 sacks and 529 total tackles.

Ellis also started a film and photography business in Dallas. In 2015, Ellis produced his first film, Carter High. Check out Ellis speaking about his post-NFL career and the film, via UNC Athletics:

Ellis remains a strong supporter of the university and the UNC football program. What are some of your favorite Greg Ellis moments?