COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Reynoldsburg High School senior Elijah Ratliff has worn jersey number 56 for the past two seasons to honor the memory of his cousin, Phil Ratliff, a two-time All-American offensive lineman and former assistant coach at Marshall University. Now, Elijah will follow in his cousin’s footsteps and play football for the Herd next year.
“Definitely the family, they were the ones that drove me to say that you can do this when every one else says you can’t do it, you can,” said Ratliff.
Ratliff leads the Raiders in tackles this season, which is difficult for his position of defensive tackle, but he is a determined athlete who plays with an intensity only elite athletes know. During his sophomore year at Reynoldsburg, Elijah learned his cousin, Phil had passed away from a cardiac arrhythmia at the age of 44. The Ratliff family made Marshall t-shirts with Phil’s number 56 on the back, and Elijah wanted the same number for his Raider jersey.
“Numbers are based on seniority, and i said if a senior wants that number, I can’t take it from him, so he talked to the senior and the senior gave it up to him,” said Reynoldsburg head coach Buddy White.
“It was pretty cool being a sophomore wearing a senior’s number after my cousin Phil, almost playing for my cousin,” said Elijah.
Elijah and his family have been visiting Marshall for years, so even though, he held numerous Division I college offers, Elijah chose to commit to Marshall.
“Marshall was the place that felt like home to me, and that’s why i picked there,” said Elijah.