Stan Ellsworth breaks the mold of a high school history teacher. The 6’2″, 300lb muscle-clad former NFL player is the Harley Davidson-riding host and creator of BYUtv’s American history program American Ride and web series History and the Highway–two programs that he hopes will inspire the next generation of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and raised in the Carolinas, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Ellsworth was steeped in the landmarks and stories of American history throughout his formative years. His family lineage includes such historic luminaries as Revolutionary War patriot Ethan Allen, both General of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee and General of the Union Army Ulysses S. Grant (also the 18th president of the U.S.), and American folk hero Davy Crockett. Even as a young child, Ellsworth was aware of the fact that American history was intertwined with his identity. He also started riding a motorcycle at the age of 14. The two orientations—both of which Ellsworth feels are representative of freedom and individual expression—have been dominant forces in his life ever since.
After completing a bachelor’s of history at Brigham Young University and a Masters in Psychology at the University of Utah, Ellsworth spent time in the National Football League, as a linebacker for the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks. He then moved on to be an NCAA coach at East Stroudsburg University (PA), at the University of Utah, the University of Arizona and the University of Pennsylvania. When tragedy struck his life, and his wife died, Ellsworth returned to his Utah roots with his two young children. It was then that he launched his career as a high school history teacher at Highland High School in Salt Lake City, where he spent nearly 10 years in the classroom. High School History While he didn’t exactly wear his biker regalia into the classroom, Ellsworth did bring his personality to his teaching, calling upon his coaching and football strategy skills to convey American history, particularly the battles. Ellsworth’s goal—both when he was in the classroom, and now in his weekly television program—has always been to “wake people up” to the stories of our founding fathers and mothers, and the sacrifices they made in creating this nation. In his gruff baritone voice, he speaks eloquently of our heritage and extols the wisdom and bravery of those who came before us. Lately, the television and the classroom history teacher roles have been merged. As the host of American Ride, Ellsworth has been speaking at school assemblies, and receiving superlative accolades from both students and teachers.
In 2000, while Ellsworth was actively teaching, he was approached by a film producer/ director about playing the role of a “mean coach” for the feature film, Jumping for Joy. While he had never had any acting experience—and was anything but a mean coach—Ellsworth’s coaching career made the part an easy fit for him. The role opened up a new career, and he has since appeared in a dozen feature films—both as an actor and stunt man—and in television programs including History Hogs, Bounty Hunters, Touched by an Angel, and as the narrator/host of the Forgotten Tales of the Wild West.
Working in the film and television industry, Ellsworth began to develop the concept for American Ride. His approach removes the “bow tie and sweater vest” of history professors, puts on “skull rag and denim vest” and breaks down the stereotype. Ellsworth’s adventurous spirit and love for the United States is contagious and engaging without going over the top. His approach is more like an invitation to walk (and ride) with him through the footsteps of history. He hopes the stories and “postcards” from the highways and byways of the country will make American history relevant to today’s audience, and motivate them to take an active part in our political system.
“WHILE WE CAN’T GO BACK AND FIGHT THE BATTLES OF SARATOGA AND GETTYSBURG, EXPERIENCE THE FIRST U.S. CONGRESS, SEE THE RAVAGES OF THE CIVIL WAR, OR WATCH OUR HERITAGE UNFOLD, WE CAN WALK THE GROUND WHERE THOSE EVENTS HAPPENED,” SAID ELLSWORTH. “I BELIEVE, THAT IF YOU’RE QUIET AND REFLECTIVE ENOUGH IN THOSE HALLOWED PLACES, YOU MIGHT HEAR SOME THINGS DEEP IN YOUR HEART THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO YOU.”
– LET’S TAKE A RIDE –