THOMASVILLE -- Former Thomasville High School and University of Georgia Bulldogs great Alphonso Ellis' three-year bout with metastatic colon cancer came to an end Friday morning when he died in Plano, Texas. Ellis was 35.

Nearly two months ago, Ellis was experiencing pain in his back, prompting him to seek medical attention. Doctors discovered a tumor mass over his stomach, which had caused his liver to double in size. Doctors refused to operate on him, fearing he would not be able to survive the recovery aspects of the surgery.

Ellis went to Mexico to try an all-natural process to help treat the cancer. Doctors, however, told him his tumor was too large and sent him back to Plano on March 14. He died early Friday morning at the Medical Center of Plano.

At the time of his death, Ellis was a police officer for the city of Dallas. Arrangements are pending for two celebrations of his life in Plano, Texas, and Thomasville. In lieu of flowers, Ellis wanted memorials to be made in his name sent to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 920 E. 14th St., Plano, Texas, 75074, for the Alphonso Ellis Medical fund or to the Alphonso Ellis Fund at Thomasville National Bank in Thomasville.

Ellis is survived by his wife, Corinna, and his one-year daughter, Aleigha.

Ellis' death came as a shock to the people closest to him, including one of his high school coaches, Tommy Welch, now head coach at Thomasville.

"It's a shock and just hard to believe. I just kept thinking Alphonso will whip that, too," Welch said. "But the Lord's got His plan."

Another of Ellis' high school coaches, Warren Field, heard the news Friday afternoon. He couldn't believe it.

"My heart's broken because that's just not supposed to happen," Field said. "He was always a great representative of Thomasville."

Ellis still holds the Thomasville record for rushing yards in a 10-game season with 1,383 yards in 1986. He'll always be remembered for his punishing hits he laid on opposing defenders and also for his loyalty to the team.

"He was a great player and the ultimate team player," Welch said. "He had all the intangibles, all the right things, all the talent."

"He always was one that worked just as hard to make things better for him and the people around him," Field said.

Field recalled a time when Ellis was so disappointed in himself during a big game against his cross-town rival.

"I remember in a game against Central for the Region 1-AAA championship in 1986," Field said, "when we were taking the ball all the way downfield. He made a great block on the corner. Shawn Jones pitched the ball to Eddie Coleman who took it for the touchdown. It was a great play, but they called holding on him.

"I meant so much to him, because he thought he let us down. He was a class act. He's going to be missed."

It wasn't just Ellis' on-the-field heroics that made him a legend in Bulldogs country. Welch said Ellis symbolized what sportsmanship was all about.

"He epitomized everything good about sports," Welch said, "being a good man, that was him. You don't meet too many like that."

Jack Kelly knew Ellis very well. One of his sons was real good friends with Ellis growing up. Like Welch and Field, Kelly made it clear that Ellis was a first-class individual on-and-off the field.

"He was a good boy. He did everything from car washes to yard work," Kelly said. "Everybody in town, I think, knew him.

"He was always respectful of his elders. I never knew Alphonso to be in any trouble."

Before Ellis died, he expressed his love and appreciation to his family and friends for the support they showed him over the past couple of years. He gave all the credit to the man upstairs.

"I'm extremely humbled," Ellis said. "I feel a lot of love and commitment from the people close to me. I believe it's a testament to how great God is."

Trending Video

Recommended for you