UNI quarterback joins NCAA huddle to represent students nationwide

Injuries have sidelined senior University of Northern Iowa quarterback Christian Ellsworth, but his work on a national committee has made him a major player in Division I football. 

Ellsworth was selected to represent about 15,000 student-athletes from 256 teams nationwide on the Division I Football Oversight Committee. 

“I represent every Division I football player in the country, and to be able to represent UNI in those meetings and bring those experiences back to this place is pretty cool,” Ellsworth said. “Some of the new rules for this season, I was involved in making and voting on. I feel very fortunate to be a voice for UNI and all of college football.”

The Football Oversight Committee is meant to enhance the development of the sport and prioritize the promotion of student-athletes’ personal growth and leadership development. Ellsworth helps make decisions that impact every Division I football player in the nation, and it is his job to provide sufficient representation for his fellow players. 

The committee includes athletic directors from Power 5 schools such as Alabama’s Greg Byrne, Utah’s Mark Harlan and Penn State’s Sandy Barbour. 

“They all recognize the Panther logo, and they know that there’s a deep-rooted tradition of athletics,” Ellsworth said. “It is just awesome to represent us. They respect my voice, and they respect my opinion. Just to be in that room is so special.”

He also heads a committee with student-athlete representatives from all Division I conferences to advise him on decisions that he faces on the oversight committee. 

“I have a perspective from every conference in college football, so I can represent every student-athlete voice. It isn’t just my voice,” he said. “I am from a small town, and to be able to represent every DI football player is special. I am grateful for UNI for giving me that opportunity.”

His path to the NCAA Oversight Committee began on the UNI Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a group that advocates for student-athletes to the director of athletics and the university administration. Through SAAC, he got involved in the conference and national level. 

Ellsworth wasn’t even sure he would take the field in 2019. A shoulder injury late last year led to surgery that would put him out of commission for the season, but his recovery has been faster than expected. 

The Grand Island, Nebraska, native broke countless state passing records on his way to a successful high school football career. 

He chose to come to UNI, where he would have a chance to compete for a starting quarterback job, but four years ago and a major injury later, it hasn’t gone the way he hoped. Despite the struggles, he has found a role with UNI and is taking advantage of his opportunity to work toward his ultimate goal of becoming a coach. 

“I’m able to bring four years of experience in the game and try to mentor these young guys,” Ellsworth said. “I want to get into coaching, so this is a perfect opportunity for me to just try to give every bit of knowledge that I have to these guys so they can be successful in every way.” 

UNI quarterbacks coach Justin Roper is glad to have a veteran like Ellsworth as a voice in the room. 

“He’s a veteran presence,” Roper said. “He’s been around a lot of football, and he is a really good leader. His leadership and experience show out there.”

Despite his expectations for his football career falling short, Ellsworth credits UNI for giving him so much in his life. 

“Football-wise, it hasn’t worked out the way I thought,” Ellsworth said. “You know, I come here out of high school and thought to myself that I want to be a starter, and I want to help this team win a national championship on the field.

“That hasn’t played out in my career for certain reasons, but I’ve been able to give this university everything that I have off the field, and this university has given everything to me off the field. I met my future wife, and I’ve made so many great relationships because of my decision to come here. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made, and I will never regret it.”