Two La Marque High School alums have made their way to Grambling State University, but went down opposite roads to being G-Men.
Grambling State football is back on the top in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). They won the conference championship last year as well as winning the Celebration Bowl, which is the national championship for HBCU D1 football programs.
Grambling State is looking to take home the hardware once again this year with some help from two La Marque alums.
Kendall Hill graduated from La Marque High School is 2012. He was on the last La Marque football team that made it to the state championship. In the playoffs of his senior season against Manvel, Hill tore his ACL.
“It took a lot out of me to get back from the injury, a lot of pain and a lot of heartache,” said Hill. “It made the man that I am today, and had me put God first, and never give up.”
The next fall, Hill began his career at Oregon State University, but redshirted his freshman season to recover from his ACL injury.
“I took my first official to Oregon State and I just fell in love with the campus, the coaching staff, being on the west coast,” said Hill. “It was a new scenery change for me being 17 years old leaving my mother’s house.”
In Hill’s second season at Oregon State he ended up injuring his other knee, this time during spring ball. The injury made him miss his second season. Hill finally stepped on the field in 2014, but he was switched from defensive back to wide receiver.
The best year for Hill at Oregon State was 2015, where he recorded 39 tackles after he was switched back to the defense during spring ball.
The NCAA granted Hill a sixth year of eligibility due to him missing two seasons from his knee injuries. Hill played the full season in 2016 for Oregon State, before he decided to transfer to Grambling State. He got a release from Oregon State after his 2016 season, saying he was no longer with the team.
Hill got to Grambling State because of coach Darrell Kitchen, who is an alum of Ball High School and former coach at Grambling State. Hill believes that coming to Grambling State was one of the best decisions he could have ever made.
“I had to take Grambling State into a real deep consideration,” said Hill. “After I did that, I don’t regret it all and not just because we are winning, but because of what coach (Broderick) Fobbs and the coaching staff has instilled in me.”
Hill currently has 29 tackles and one interception for Grambling State this season.
LaDarrian Ellis-Jones is the second player on this Grambling State football team that is from La Marque. He graduated from La Marque High School in 2015, but didn’t go to Grambling State until the following year.
Ellis-Jones’ road to Grambling State was a little different from most college athletes. He didn’t go to college straight out of high school, he stayed at home for the first semester. Ellis-Jones was recruited to Grambling State by Kitchen, just as Hill was.
“I had to come to Grambling as a preferred walk-on,” said Ellis-Jones. “It was one of the toughest things I ever had to do in my life. It was a different experience, I never had the opportunity to go off and visit schools and have big scholarship offers.”
Ellis-Jones has made the most of his walk-on opportunity learning under the best running back in the SWAC in Martez Carter. Ellis-Jones hasn’t seen the field much due to the great production from Carter, but Carter is graduating and it could be Ellis-Jones’ time to shine.
“I have a motor,” said Ellis-Jones. “My work ethic is amazing, and I don’t think anyone is working as much and as hard as I am working. For my family and the fans out there, they will be receiving the best LaDarrian Ellis-Jones next year.”
Ellis-Jones did play in nine games last season in which Grambling State won the SWAC Championship. If Grambling State were to win on Saturday it will be Ellis-Jones second ring to add to his collection, but Ellis-Jones doesn’t feel any different about this year’s championship run compared to last year’s run.
“It is no different feeling at all,” said Ellis-Jones. “Football is football and Grambling is Grambling. I’m going to do what I have to do on this team for us to be successful.”
Hill and Ellis-Jones both had two totally different paths to Grambling State, but the common denominator was Kitchen. Grambling State will be playing Alcorn State on Saturday at NRG Stadium for the SWAC Championship.