PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Central Catholic High School senior Elijah Elliot works hard on the football field to honor the person who helped him grow into the standout player he is today.
Elijah said he fell in love with football while watching his brother, Deante Strickland, play.
The 22-year-old Portland State University student-athlete was shot and killed in August. Elijah was at a friend’s house when he found out.
“My auntie called me and when she called me I just knew something was up,” he said. “I called my whole family, I called my dad, he answered, I called my mom she answered, and then my sister and then my brother and he didn’t answer.”
Elijah recalled some of his memories with his brother.
“I remember him just coming out here, watching him practice on this field right here and watching him play in the games and stuff and just always riding the bus with the team and cracking jokes with the team,” Elijah said.
With 20 college football scholarship offers and counting, Elijah’s skills on the football field are self-evident. He’s spent his entire athletic career following in his brother’s footsteps — even going through the extra workouts Deante would put together aside from their team responsibilities.
“He took me to this park down the street from our house and he just kept telling me to run and every time I dropped the ball, he was telling me to run,” Elijah recalled. “I just got frustrated with him and then I called my dad he’s like, ‘Naw, you gotta keep running.'”
All of those extra hours spent training with Deante have translated to a passion for football Elijah can’t contain.
“Who am I on the football field? I like to think of myself as crazy, insane, I never fold, I never quit — hard worker and I’m a warrior, plain as that, I don’t give up.”
He said Deante taught him “all of it.”
Elijah’s brother died just days before Elijah’s senior fall camp. Still, Elijah showed up for the camp despite his coach telling him he could miss it.
“That’s where Deante would want me to be,” Elijah said. “He’d want me to keep going, keep fighting and that’s what I’m going to do.”
The very thing Deante taught him is what Elijah finds strength in to get through his brother’s death.
“This game — it’s more. It’s personal now, I gotta do it now,” he said. “Make this ugly thing turn into a beautiful thing at the end of the day.”