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Jake Elliott admits Bengals drafted him much sooner than he was expecting

Jake Elliott is already used to donning tiger stripes.

NCAA Football: Houston at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals finally decided to upgrade the kicker position through the NFL Draft.

Most of Marvin Lewis’ tenure has seen retreads and outcasts become the team’s primary kicker, whether it was Shayne Graham, Josh Brown or Mike Nugent. But for the first time in the Lewis era, Cincinnati drafted a kicker by taking Memphis’ Jake Elliott in Round 5.

It may have been late into Day 3 before Elliott had his name called, but the wait was well worth it. The selection came as Elliott was celebrating with friends and family, making this special moment even sweeter.

"We had a little get together at a family friend's house with 30 to 40 people over, and I just tried to enjoy the day and not stress too much," Elliott told the Chicago Tribune. "I didn't have any clue where it was going, but I did talk to a few teams prior to the draft starting that day, with the Bengals being one of them.

"I finally got a call from them in the fifth round, a lot earlier than I expected. I had just made myself a plate of food and was getting ready to sit down and watch more of the draft and calm the nerves. I answered the phone thinking it was going to be a recruiting call, just asking how I was feeling, how the day was going. But I tried to walk away in quiet room, and they ended up saying they were taking me. I started kind of freaking out from there."

Elliott revealed that he was in contact with the Bengals multiple times over the last few months, starting at the Senior Bowl and then at the NFL Scouting Combine. Cincinnati also worked Elliott out after his pro day, and it was during these workouts and interviews that sold him to the Bengals.

It did help that Elliott was one of the most productive college kickers throughout his career with the Tigers. In his freshman year (2013), Elliott was the only FBS kicker to attempt three or more field goals of 50-plus yards and convert every attempt (50, 52, 56 yards). He was also 7-for-8 on 40-plus yard field goals (.875).

Elliott never missed an extra point or any kick under 30 yards in his college career, while 63 percent (210-of-330) of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He also became the school's all-time leading scorer while setting records for field goals made in total and from 50 yards away or more.

The Bengals have said a big reason why they liked Elliott so much was because of his kickoff ability, in addition to putting the ball between the uprights. In 2016, Elliott had 94 kickoffs for 5,988 yards, an average of 63.7 yards per kickoff. That resulted in 64 touchbacks (68.09%).

He had a career-high 12 kickoffs in a home win over Bowling Green, had four games in which he had a season-high 65.0 kickoff yards average (Kansas, Temple, Tulsa, Houston) and played a big role in Memphis having the nation’s second-best kick-return defense (16.04 ypr) in 2016. Memphis’ kick-return defense also was first in The American Athletic Conference. He had no kickoffs returned for a touchdown and his 64 touchbacks led the American Athletic Conference and were third nationally.

Elliott will now challenge Randy Bullock for the starting kicker job this season. It’s very likely that Elliott wins this job, but it’s by no means a given for a Day 3 pick. Bullock is a veteran, and it’s no secret the Bengals prefer veterans who they’re familiar with over young and arguably more talented rookies.

Still, Elliott looks like he’ll be the guy this season and hopefully for many years to come.