Moscow High School alum Jonah Elliss is selected by Denver Broncos in NFL draft

Apr. 27—For the first time in 37 years, Moscow High School had a player selected in the NFL draft Friday, and it's a last name that's quite familiar to those on the Palouse.

Bears graduate Jonah Elliss was picked by the Denver Broncos at No. 76 overall in the third round of the 2024 NFL draft.

The Utah Utes edge is the first Moscow High player to be picked in the NFL draft since Super Bowl champion Doug Riesenberg started his nine-year pro career with the New York Giants in 1987.

In joining the Broncos, Jonah Elliss continues to follow in the footsteps of his father, former Idaho assistant coach Luther Elliss, who also played his college ball at Utah and later went on to finish his 10-year NFL career in Denver in 2004.

The 6-foot-2, 246-pound rookie also joins three brothers in the NFL ranks: linebacker Kaden Elliss (Atlanta Falcons), linebacker Christian Elliss (New England Patriots) and defensive tackle Noah Elliss (Philadelphia Eagles). All three played for the Idaho Vandals.

Jonah Elliss was the first to break the mold and join a Power Five school after being the top-ranked recruit in Idaho as a senior for Moscow in 2020.

"As his coach, obviously more than anything all I can say is I'm just very proud of him," former Moscow football coach Phil Helbling said. "From Day 1 when he came in his freshman year, he was nothing but respectful, down to earth, humble and he put in the work day after day, week after week, year after year."

Jonah Elliss rarely left the field for the Bears during a prep career that featured two district titles and Inland Empire League player of the year honors as a senior.

After starting out as a "gangly" sophomore tight end and linebacker/defensive end, Elliss developed into a monster athlete in the 4A IEL. By his senior season, Elliss' combination of elite speed, size, strength and a motor that never stopped made him the focal point of all opposing game plans.

On offense, he was a player who could go up in double coverage to snag a pass or race past smaller defensive backs if given room in the open field.

On defense, he was a menace to opposing offensive linemen, running backs and quarterbacks.

But most importantly for Helbling, Elliss was a player who never missed a day of practice, summer conditioning, or winter weight lifting.

It didn't matter that he had an NFL dad, or NFL brothers — he still wanted to put in the work to be the best.

"He wanted to be the best Elliss," Helbling said. "You could see that: ... 'I'm going to be the best Elliss. I'm going to be better than my brother(s).' He was going to make the most of it. That's who he was."

At first, it was a slow jump for Elliss from the Idaho 4A level to the Pac-12 Conference. As a freshman in 2021, he had just 15 tackles and one sack as a reserve linebacker.

His sophomore year, he continued to add muscle and switched to playing more on the defensive line — and his improvement was apparent around the conference. Elliss started eight games, tallied 26 tackles and six tackles for loss en route to earning all-conference honorable mention.

By the end of his junior season in 2023, he was one of the most dominant edge rushers in the nation.

Despite missing some time with an injury, Elliss led the Football Bowl Subdivision in sacks per game (1.2, 12 total) and finished third in the FBS in tackles for loss per game (1.6, 16 total).

He became known for a devastating spin move and relentless motor to the ball, but also used a combination of a speed rush, swim move and other techniques. Those skills helped Elliss become a consensus All-American and All-Pac-12 first-teamer as a senior.

"He's an edge player that plays with energy, effort — all those things you look for," Broncos coach Sean Payton told reporters. "Real good football makeup, good character. We put a blue tag on some of these guys — he had that."

Said Jonah Elliss, in a news release: "I feel like my effort is elite when it comes to the game. That's just how I was raised. And then I think I'm a great pass rusher. ... Somewhere I need to grow is just perfecting the little things, the little techniques, especially in the run game."

Payton joked that the Broncos were afraid that the Falcons would take Jonah Elliss two picks before them in the third round. Falcons LB Kaden Elliss previously played for Payton when they were both with the New Orleans Saints.

"The team before us is Atlanta and I'm reminded that Kaden is in Atlanta now," Payton said. "Kaden's there, they needed an edge, and I'm like, 'Maybe Kaden and Jonah didn't get along.' So we're sweatin' that pick out and they ended up taking a different (player), and we had a text two seconds later from Kaden."

Moments after that, Payton and Broncos general manager George Paton were on the phone with Jonah Elliss to pick him as the latest Elliss brother to play professional football.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, or on Twitter @StephanSports.