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Meet Ellis Williams, the newest Panthers analyst and reporter for The Charlotte Observer

·4 min read

While alone in my thoughts a week ago, I watched the Carolina Panthers face the Minnesota Vikings. A bit ironic considering The North raised me. For the first time in years, I had nothing to do on an NFL Sunday.

Life feels fullest when mind and body are in the same place. It’s called being present, which I wasn’t. How could I be?

A few weeks prior, Charlotte Observer sports editor Matt Stephens called me late at night to share some news. I’ll never forget staring at my phone, delaying an inevitable conversation. I braced for the worst.

This industry spits rejection the way LaMelo Ball emits swagger. I was ready for it.

“Hey, Ellis,” I imagined. “We really like you but are going with someone else.”

Then Matt told me I was that someone else.

Once again I paused, stuck in place. A few days later I apologized for not expressing my pure elation of a dream, turned goal, realized. It even took me 20 minutes to call my mother. When I did, some tears fell. She raised me alone.

Journalism continues blessing me with opportunities to express myself through written word, accurate takes (views) and spoken thought. I’ll continue making the most of this new platform Matt and executive editor Rana Cash handed me. No fumbles either, because it’s go time.

I’m joining The Charlotte Observer to cover the Carolina Panthers. It’s a humbling and exciting new chapter. I’m giddy so let’s griddy.

This joy will translate into calculated pieces examining owner David Tepper and general manager Scott Fitterer’s decisions. I’ll examine Sam Darnold’s struggles under Matt Rhule and Joe Brady and explain why his hopeful rebirth is not yet working. I’ll uncover important “hows” and share worthwhile stories centered around the Panthers’ rebuild. Win or lose, these people dedicate their lives to football and will be held accountable.

I’m nervous but it’s time to kill that feeling because The Observer just let one of the realest in. Of course, I wasn’t made this way. My mother, father, grandparents, auntie, cousins and a whole network of friends and mentors shaped Ellis L. Williams. Playing college football instilled my appreciation for film study. (Shoutout to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). Over the past two years, I combined watching tape with reporting on the Browns for and The Plain Dealer.

Covering Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Odell Beckham Jr. pushed my writing to a market of football-obsessed fans that demanded quality critiques of their beloved Brownies. By mixing film study with reporting and pop culture, I found my NFL voice.

This summer I was watching the Hunger Games when it hit me. Katness Everdeen shot a piercing arrow through an apple sitting inside a roasted pig’s mouth during her introduction dinner; a ploy to grab the attention of those around her.

I’ll bring similar energy each day to the Panthers beat, starting with this introduction. For most, the NFL provides entertainment. I’ll bring our readers that — plus the nuts and bolts — with my own “El Will” spin.

Please be patient with me. I’m starting from the back but I’ll cut through with work ethic, creativity, dynamic content, risk-taking and some humor. Accuracy and innovation come first. We’ll try new things at The Observer alongside my talented colleagues Jonathan Alexander, columnist Scott Fowler and several others I’m delighted to soon meet.

In time, I’ll prove worth your readership. Not through Twitter likes, retweets or replies. But from the quality of my work, content of my personality and love for football.

I’m passionate about smart, innovative offenses, complimented by swarming and attacking defenses. I like playmaking quarterbacks. The ones who hang for that extra quarter second. I binge watch dual-threat running backs, multidimensional tight ends and crafty slot receivers. And on the outside, all I gotta say is don’t get Moss’d.

Because I’ll go wild if a defensive back does. Forget about it and move on, though. Remember, corners play the most difficult position. I’m a sucker for sticky linebackers and safeties. Tough to find but so valuable.

Of course, I saved the realist truth for last. It starts up front. Build those offensive and defensive lines to dominate or you’ll get got often on Sundays.

Thanks for indulging my list of football pleasantries and unorthodox introduction. I don’t come from tradition. This story is far from written. Mostly written off but these words charm and smitten.

Let’s have some fun at Bank of America Stadium. I’m serious.

— Ellis Williams, @BookofEllis

Required Panthers reading

+ Analysis: The Panthers are actively getting worse each week. It’s clear who’s to blame

+ Fowler: Panthers must say no to the temptation of Deshaun Watson. They have enough problems already

+ Grading the Carolina Panthers in their Week 7 loss to the New York Giants

+ Giants 25, Panthers 3: Reaction as Sam Darnold gets benched in an embarrassing loss

+ Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule explains why he benched Sam Darnold on Sunday

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