I was watching TV Friday morning when I received a terrible phone call from my sports editor, John Nogowski.

He said he had just received a call from Jack Kelly, who said Alphonso Ellis had just passed away.

A Thomasville legend had just passed away.

Ellis, 35, had been fighting a three-year battle with colon cancer.

Though he was not doing well and this day seemed inevitable, it still came as a shock to me, and I'm sure everyone else, that he lost the battle.

But even then, I'm not sure Ellis truly lost the battle.

He may have not survived the cancer, but I know that he was a faithful and God-fearing man.

That no matter what happened, he would end up some day with God, which makes any battle he went through on Earth worth it.

I had never met Ellis in person but everyone I talked to raved about what a great guy he was on and off the field. People who watched him play for the Bulldogs of Georgia and at Thomasville marveled at what a great physical specimen he was.

They recalled how he ran over poor defenders, who were in his way.

Sarah Ann Floyd was a great friend of Ellis.

She once told me of how Ellis' teammates were also victims of his punishing style of running.

It was kind of like, a man playing with boys, if you will.

Boy, I wish I could have been able to witness some of his punishing blows he laid on cornerbacks and linebackers.

But after talking to people, I got the impression that Ellis was a bigger man off the field than he was on the field.

I could also tell just how popular a guy Ellis was when he was planning to go to Mexico to receive treatment two weeks ago. Funds were being set up in Texas and in Thomasville to help Ellis and his family pay for the treatments.

I can't tell you how many calls and e-mails I got letting me know a fund was being set up in one place or the other. It was evident that people truly cared about this man long after his time as a Thomasville Bulldog.

Everyone commented on how he treated other people with first-class respect.

I think it came from his relationship with the Lord.

I talked to him twice over the phone. I could tell how much faith he had in God and how would get him through this terrible ordeal.

When I last talked to him, he expressed his love and appreciation to those who supported him. He believed that was a sign of God's greatness.

Though Ellis will undoubtedly be remembered mostly for his accomplishments as a Thomasville and Georgia Bulldog, it was his first-class attitude off the field and in the community that set him apart from most sports stars.

I only wished I had the privilege of meeting Ellis face-to-face before he died.

He was the kind of person I would want my kid to look up to when he played a sport.

Ellis performed with class on the field of competition and in the game of life.

In a day when sports heroes claim they are not role models, it's nice to see a guy being remembered for what he did off the field.

I'll remember you Alphonso, and I"m sure everyone else in Bulldogs country will remember you as well.

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