Like many NFL players Ellis Lankster’s path to the NFL has taken many twists and turns. After playing high school football in Alabama, Lankster’s next stop was Jones County Junior College in Mississippi. After two impressive years at Jones County he transferred to WVU, where he was a two year starter at corner.
In 2009 he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 7th round. Lankster made the Bills final roster and excelled on special teams and as the Bills nickel corner. Despite his success, he was released at the final cutdown by the Bills in September of 2010. Lankster had a short stint with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League before the NFL would come calling again.
The resilient Lankster was signed by the Jets in January of 2011. Lankster had a minor setback as he was waived by the Jets in September only to be resigned by the Jets a month later. After being brought back Lankster began to solidify his presence on the Jets as a reserve corner and special teams stalwart. The following season Lankster’s hard work paid off as he had his best statistical season as a professional. In 2012, Lankster recorded 39 tackles, a sack, and two interceptions for the Jets.
Throughout the 2012 and 2013 Jets season Lankster’s reputation as a fierce special teams player grew as evidenced by this . . .
Lankster’s special team play was noticed not just by Jets fans but by the league as he made his way onto the Pro Bowl ballot in 2013 as a special teamer.
In January of this year, Lankster’s versatility and persistence paid off when the Jets awarded Lankster with a two-year 1.63 million dollar contract, along with a $155,000 signing bonus.
This brings us to training camp 2014.
Its often said in the NFL “injury brings opportunity” and now nothing could be more true for Ellis Lankster. The Jets secondary is decimated with injuries. With injuries to former Alabama star Dee Milliner and a season ending injury to third round pick Dexter McDougle, Lankster found himself lining up as one of the two starting cornerbacks as the Jets took on the Bengals in their second preseason game last Saturday.
After missing a few practices due to a nagging back injury, Lankster has still managed to impress the Jets’ staff.
“He is talented. He can play in this league. He’s got all the physical tools,” Jets’ defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said of Lankster.
With Lankster now fighting for a starting job and already regarded as a standout special teams player with the Jets, it looks like the 2014 season could be shaping up to Lankster’s best yet. If he does grab a starting job, it looks like WVU fans might not only be tuning into the Jets to check in on Geno but to see the scrappy Lankster continue to expand his role with the Jets.
Some interesting notes: Lankster once had two interceptions in the span of 64 seconds in a preseason game against the Bears. Other noteworthy NFL starters that were also drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 draft include New York Giants starting running back Rashad Jennings, New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, and WVU’s own Pat McAfee.