JOPLIN, Missouri — Two former Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College assistant football coaches — Colby Ellis and Zach Crissup — have joined Denver Johnson’s Missouri Southern State University Lions staff.

Ellis will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Lions while Crissup becomes a defensive secondary coach.

A native of Tonkawa, Ellis comes to Southern after serving as an assistant coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M the past four seasons.

Ellis coached the special teams unit and the wide receivers while at NEO. Last season his returners finished in the top five in the NJCAA in returns (kickoff - second, punt – third). His kicking teams placed first in field goals, third in field goal percentage and third in point after attempts.

Prior to NEO, Ellis was a graduate assistant at the University of West Georgia where he coached the corner backs and was an assistant on the special teams unit.

That year, the Wolves finished 12-2 and were a Division II national semifinalist, while winning the Gulf South Conference and a region championship.

Ellis actually had two stints with the Golden Norsemen during the 2014 and 2015 seasons under Ryan Held. He coached special teams and linebackers and also served as the assistant strength coach.

Ellis also worked in 2013 as a member of the strength and conditioning program at his alma mater, Oklahoma State.

As a player, Ellis played two seasons at NEO where he was a two-year starter for the Norse at free safety, recording 181 combined total tackles that is an all-time NEO school record.

He was an all-Southwest Junior College Football Conference selection as a freshman and a sophomore, leading the conference in tackles (103) as a freshman.

That year, he finished 12th in the NJCAA in tackles.

After earning an associates degree at NEO, Ellis went on to play football at Oklahoma State where he helped the team win the Big 12 title in 2011, including a bid in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

The team participated in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2012.

Ellis was a defensive back, wide receiver and a member of the special teams unit for the Cowboys.

Ellis graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in health education and promotion with an emphasis in exercise and health in 2013 from Oklahoma State.

He also earned his master’s of science in health and human performance with an emphasis in sport and leisure service management from Pittsburg (Kansas) State University in 2015.

Crissup just completed his second season on the Fairmont (West Virginia) State University football staff as defensive coordinator.

“It’s a great opportunity to be back in the area and be closer to family, as well as work with a staff that has over 100 years of coaching experience,” Crissup said. “I am very excited to learn from and work with the Missouri Southern staff.”

Crissup helped lead the FSU defense to marked improvement during his first season finishing in the top five in the league in scoring defense, rushing defense, pass defense and total defense.

However, one of the biggest improvements was the team’s ability to force turnovers with 23 on the year. The Falcons led the Mountain East Conference in turnover margin in 2015.

Crissup arrived at Fairmont State following his stint as linebackers and strength coach with the Golden Norsemen.

During his three seasons at NEO, Crissup served under head coaches Dale Patterson, Sherard Poteete and Ryan Held.

He was part of Dale Patterson’s 2012 NEO staff that won the SWJCFC regular season title with a 5-1 record, lost to Navarro 62-24 in the post-season conference championship and lost 42-29 to the College of DuPage, Illinois in the Citizens Bank Bowl at Pittsurg. NEO finished with a 9-3 overall record.

Before coming to NEO, Crissup coached and served as the in-school placement director for the Stillwater Public School System.

During his playing career, Crissup was a safety under coach Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.

As a safety for the Cowboys, Crissup also played under defensive coordinator Tim Beckman and safeties coach and former West Virginia University and current Kansas assistant Joe DeForest.

Crissup also served as a linebacker’s coach for the Ray McElroy Youth Football Camp in the summer of 2009.

Originally from Helena, Oklahoma, Crissup received a bachelor’s of science degree in education from Oklahoma State in 2008.

He continued his education at Pittsburg State University and received a master’s of science degree in health and human performance in 2011.