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Ellixson draws on football career

Isaac Lorton | Monday, February 25, 2013

He may not have known it, but second-year law student Brian Ellixson had been preparing for Bengal Bouts his entire life.

Ellixson was a starting offensive lineman for Brown University and a wrestler in high school. One of his teammates from Brown gave rise to Ellixson’s interest in Bengal Bouts.

“One of my friends from undergrad – we played football together – came here for law school and he loved [Bengal Bouts],” Ellixson said. “I talked to him about law school and Notre Dame in general. He told me about [Bengal Bouts] and when I got here, I wasn’t going to do it because I was going to be busy with law school, but one of my friends talked me into it and I have loved it ever since.”

Bengal Bouts has been a special part of Ellixon’s Notre Dame experience, he said.

“I think it is an interesting dynamic because these are your teammates,” Ellixson said. “These are the guys you have been working hard with since Halloween and then you turn around and this is your competition. It’s an interesting dynamic, but everyone wants each other to succeed. You always see guys happy when other people win, but it does make it interesting when you go from working together to working against each other. And obviously the mission of Bengal Bouts makes it something really important. You are doing something for someone other than yourself, which is always good.”

After one year of fighting in the bouts, Ellixson earned a spot as captain. He said that choice was an honor and he tries to be as supportive and constructive as possible.

“It’s only my second year of boxing,” Ellixson said. “So, I help out when I can in the things we do. Even if it’s just motivation for the workouts. It’s tough day in and day out to get everyone up for the really tough workouts, especially during novice [practices] in the fall, when a lot of it is the basic stuff and hard training. I try keeping the guys motivated, stuff like that. Helping out whenever I can.”

During his playing days, Brown’s athletic site described Ellixson as “a starting right guard with the versatility to play all three positions. He’s athletic and one of Brown’s strongest offensive linemen.”

This versatility, strength and quickness, is accompanied by Ellixson’s toughness. In a game against Holy Cross in the 2010 season, Ellixson broke his lower left orbital, but despite the injury continued to play. Ellixson characterized his fighting style in boxing as purposeful.

“I would describe [my boxing style] as aggressive,” Ellixson said. “I have always gotten teased for being aggressive, but it’s one of those where I feel like I am in pretty good shape, so I just want to be opportunistic I guess. When I see a window I take it.”

The similarities between boxing and football have helped Ellixson in his two years of participating in Bengal Bouts. A certain harmony between body and mind is developed through training and then it is a head-to-head matchup against the opponent, Ellixson said.

“Obviously, they are both physical sports,” Ellixson said. “Specifically playing offensive line, there’s a lot of thinking and quick decisions. They are both fast-paced sports where you want to get to the point where you know things so well that you don’t have to think, because when you are thinking, you are slow. It’s something to train your body and your mind to know, ‘This is what I need to do,’ and it has to become second nature.”

Ellixson said jokingly there are differences between boxing and football, as he reminisced about his time playing at Brown.

“It’s a little easier to ‘pay someone back’ in boxing, than it is in football,” Ellixson said. “In football, especially on the offensive line, you can only hit people in [the torso]. But in boxing it opens things up a little bit. I miss playing football, but it’s a very different thing from a team to individual sports.”

Although Ellixson fell in love with Bengal Bouts, his parents were not quite on the same page, he said.

“[My mom] can’t watch,” Ellixson said. “We sent her the videos of the fights, as soon as she sees me get hit once, she can’t watch it. It’s the same thing with when I wrestled in high school. She would watch [with her eyes covered] and my dad would have to give her the play-by-play. She’s not a huge fan of it.”

Compared to his mom, Ellixson said his dad looked at his boxing in good spirits, but it brought to light why Ellixson boxes.

“My dad joked the other day, ‘What am I supposed to tell people when they ask me why I am letting my son box while he is at law school?’” Ellixson said. “But I played football my entire life, I played football in college, so I definitely know the risks. It’s scary with all the concussion stuff, but we do all of the concussion testing with Bengal Bouts, which I find extremely important. I’m really happy that we do that stuff. It’s always good to monitor these things, especially when this is such a physical sport. But I love it. I guess it is what I have always done.”

Brian “Long Arms of the Law” Ellixson will compete in the 205-lb. weight class semifinals against Evan “Heavy Duty” Escobedo on Tuesday night at the JACC.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu