Bad Credit

Behind the scenes of Virginia football, Elliott makes a difference when reality hits: Jerry Ratcliffe

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Tony Elliot (Photo:

Tony Elliott likes to share a story about when reality gave him a cold slap in the face after he graduated from college and joined the real world. It was an overwhelming experience that he never forgot, a moment that influenced him to prepare his players for their future.

Elliott was still in college at Clemson, driving a “battered” Mustang that had died on him several times. He promised himself that when he graduated and landed his first job, he would buy a Chevrolet Avalanche truck. He finished his playing career at Clemson, graduated with honors in engineering, and got a job as an engineer with a good starting salary.

The young man drove to a Chevy dealership, tested a bright red Avalanche with the salesman, and returned to the dealership’s office. Elliott was excited.

“He said, ‘Son, you got no credit,'” Elliott said during an interview Thursday at the George Welsh Indoor Practice Center in Virginia. “‘You don’t have bad credit, but you don’t have credit, and so if you want that car, it’s going to cost $600 a month.’

“I’m like, ‘Man, $600 a month, and my [paycheck] is only $1,500, so I can’t do that. I didn’t know the practical skills. Now you go from the car to now you want to get married and she wants a ring. Then she wants a house and she wants furniture in that house more than you want that car, right? »

These are life skills that many college kids, many college athletes are not ready to tackle when those days come.

Since becoming a coach, Elliott has tried to change that, helping his players prepare for life. It teaches them life skills that go beyond their playing assignments on the field.

It’s a behind-the-scenes operation that UVA associate head coach and wide receivers coach Marques Hagans says makes the difference with Cavalier players.

“There’s a lot he does for the players, also providing opportunities to grow off the pitch,” Hagans said. “Offering golf lessons, getting the guys suits, teaching them how to tie a tie. There’s just a lot behind the scenes that our guys are continually growing as men and not just football players, which is a cool thing to see in this college football climate.

“Coach Elliott is very deliberate in creating the model program,” Hagans said. “It’s a cool thing not only to be a part of, but also to learn from, so I’m really excited for the players to learn not just from a coach, but from someone who leads the way, who lives off the right manner and had success at the highest level.

Assistant coach Chris Slade said Elliott teaches players how to write a check, balance a checkbook, many life skills that come in handy now and after football.

It’s important to Elliott to prepare his players for the future so there’s no shock when they try to buy that first car or truck, or buy a ring or a house.

“It’s essential because I always wanted to prepare myself to be the best father and husband I could be and to be a productive citizen, but I didn’t have many of those life skills,” Elliott said.

“A lot of those life skills you miss because you’re caught up just in the football or the academic part, and that’s really, really important for your life after football.”

He calls it the “Cavalier Code,” preparing these players for the transition, “because the reality of this game is that for most players, it’s a tough transition and it happens before you want it to. You don’t expect this to happen, and BOOM, it hits you in the face. I want my guys ready to dance and weave so they can get a head start in life.

NEXT: Is Virginia’s Receiving Corps The Best In School History?

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