Ellis went from non-factor in Dallas to a Pro Bowler in his new position after spending most of his career as a defensive end. He had 12½ sacks, forming a dynamic pass-rushing force with All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
For his efforts, Ellis was voted The Associated Press 2007 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
"It's been great," Ellis said. "I thank God for blessing me, letting me get out there and have a good support group, starting from the doctors. We have good people here, the coaches have done a good job working me back into it. They've been telling me, 'You're fine, you're fine.' It was just getting the confidence to get out there and do it."
He did it so well that Ellis drew 12 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
In a season marked by strong comebacks, Ellis beat New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, who was chosen on 10 ballots, and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, selected on seven.
Ellis is the first Cowboy and also the first linebacker to win the award, which went to Jets quarterback Chad Pennington last season.
"Guys will tell you the correct thing -- you don't seek after those awards," Ellis said. "But when you're blessed to get any award on a national level ... our [linebackers] coach, Paul Pasqualoni, says the respect of the game is one of the reasons everybody in the NFL plays. And he's right.
"So once you've got the respect of everybody in the country, if you will, at doing something -- whether it's for your efforts on coming back or for your just play on the field, whatever it is -- it's a great award to get, obviously."
Ellis became a starter as a rookie in 1998 after being selected in the first round (eighth overall) out of North Carolina. He has had a knack for finding fumbles, and he has 69 sacks in his career. He also averaged 64 tackles in his first eight seasons as an end, and he had eight sacks in 2005, his first year in a 3-4 defense.
But nine games into the 2006 season, Ware tore his Achilles tendon, one of the most debilitating of all injuries for a football player.