Over the years, Beau Elliott has worn many different football uniforms, from the brown and gold of Highlands High School to the blue and gray of the Arena Football League's Chicago Rush.
But Elliott believes, for many Pittsburghers, there's nothing like wearing black and gold and representing the city as a pro athlete.
Elliott, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound center, will fulfill a dream when he makes his debut with the AFL's Pittsburgh Power in the regular-season opener at 8 p.m. Friday at Orlando (Fla.)
"It's a great feeling," Elliott said. "I always wondered what it would be like to play for my home city. I'll get that opportunity, starting this week. I hope to do my part and contribute to a win."
Elliott, 29, who now lives in Creighton, played three seasons for Chicago before signing with the Power, who are set to kick off their second season.
Now a successful veteran, Elliott is expected to bolster the offensive line of a team that finished 9-9 and missed the playoffs in its inaugural campaign.
"Beau brings a lot to the team," Power coach Chris Siegfried said. "He has great character and leadership that other guys can look up to. And he's a great arena football player. He was one of our biggest pickups in the offseason. He'll be a huge cog in our offensive machine."
Elliott's resume includes being named to the AFL's All-Rookie Team in 2008, earning All-AFL Second Team honors in 2010 and helping lead Chicago to playoff appearances in all three of his seasons. The AFL cancelled its 2009 season because of financial difficulties. Last season, Chicago finished one win short of the Arena Bowl.
"Camp went really well," Elliott said. "Anytime you come into a new situation, there's a lot of new faces and a transition period. But then you get to know everybody and see how we fit together. It's been a productive and efficient camp. And it's nice being able to stay at home and commute. That's something I'm not used to."
During previous camps with Chicago, he stayed in a crowded apartment with other players.
Elliott can't wait for the home opener against the Philadelphia Soul on March 23. He's hoping for a large turnout for the Power and himself.
"Everybody I've talked to has mentioned they want to come and see a game," Elliott said. "I had a game in Cleveland last year and had 30 or 40 people show up. I can only imagine when the game is only 20 minutes away. According to what people are telling me, I'm going to need 200 to 300 tickets."
Actually, Elliott isn't the first member of his family to represent Pittsburgh in a sport. His father, Randy, 55, played professional softball for the Pittsburgh Hardhats. During the softball craze of the late 1970s and early '80s, pro teams formed in cities all over the northeastern United States.
But the AFL, in its 25th season, has proved to have more staying power.
Elliott also has reunited on the field with long-time friends. Power offensive line coach John Sikora played guard for Chicago during Elliott's rookie season. And fullback Tyre Young was a teammate at Indiana (Pa.) University and Wilkes-Barre Scranton, which played in the AF2 – the AFL's developmental league. Young is from Woodland Hills.
"It's always a bonus to tap into local talent," Siegfried said. "Local fans who knew about these guys in high school or college can see them play up-close and personal again."
Elliott missed about one-third of last season with a right knee injury but returned in time for Chicago's push into the postseason. The injury didn't require surgery, and he rehabilitated during the offseason. He will wear a brace as a precaution.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm 100 percent," Elliott said.
This Friday's game at Orlando is the AFL's Hall of Fame Game and will be broadcast on NFL Network.