At first he was a Gator. Then, he wasn’t sure about his decision. Then, he committed to the Florida State Seminoles. But come time for early enrollment, Matt Elam was back with the Florida Gators. Elam developed a reputation as a diva during his recruiting process, but in his time at Florida, he has been working hard to get on the field right away.
Matt Elam said he was glad the process is over with, but he blames a lot of his decisions on his want to please others.
“It was difficult trying to make people happy,” Elam said.
But now that he is at UF he said he is happy with the final decision he made.
While the process was draining on the safety, he came away with an important lesson.
“I learned that I have to make choices on my own and don’t worry about what other people think,” Elam said.
Despite the highly publicized recruitment, Elam claims he was not doing it for the attention.
“I really was confused. People thing I was playing around, but I just wanted to do what was best for me and try to make people happy,” Elam said.
In the end, it was a conversation with head coach Urban Meyer that made him re-commit to Florida. In that conversation, Meyer reminded Elam the importance of sticking to your commitments. For that reason, Elam said he felt bad about his decision to switch his commitment to the Gators’ rivals.
“Because I made a commitment and I should never have turned my back on a commitment,” Elam said.
When he first committed to FSU, pictures of Elam in a Seminoles’ jersey made it to the Web. He said he occasionally looks at those photos, but it’s not because he is reconsidering his decision.
“I look at it now and I start to get sick to my stomach,” Elam said.
The conversation with Meyer wasn’t the only reason Elam switched back to UF. He also realized the potential his class would have with three other five-star defensive players besides himself — all defensive lineman — and another eight defenders with four-star rankings.
“That’s one reason why I committed back because I saw all these great D-linemen coming in, and D-linemen is the reason safeties get the spotlight,” Elam said. We talk all the time about how good we want to be and how we want o be the best defense in the nation and how we want to win national championships.”
While many of his classmates won’t arrive on campus until the summer, Elam has already started making his impact on the field.
The incoming freshman played mostly linebacker and running back in high school, but already looks like the leading candidate for the team’s third safety.
“He’s going to be in the mix based on where we are right now,” safeties coach Chuck Heater said.
Meyer already said this spring that Elam has already earned the right to play next season. And while Elam said he talked to Meyer about it, he is trying to not pay attention to that and just keep working on learning his new position.
Since Elam’s arrival, Heater has not seen any signs of the diva tag that Elam got during his recruitment process.
“No, he has come in and done a nice job,” Heater said. “He just jumped in the winter program and started working.”
Elam has come in with the mindset that working hard would result in him seeing playing time.
“I knew if I kept working hard they would eventually have no choice but to play me,” Elam said.
His hard work has gotten him notice by his coaches, but that hasn’t been the only thing that Heater has noticed. The safeties coach knows Elam still has a long way to go in learning to be a safety, but he has shown certain skills that you can’t coach.
“He’s a very intuitive guy, very instinctive player and that’s the stuff you don’t coach,” Heater said.
Unlike many freshmen who are thrown into a demanding role, Elam has the luxury of having veterans around him to help adjust to the new position.
Ahmad Black has started at safety the last two seasons, but it is Will Hill that might be even more useful for advice for Elam.
Hill has played the role Elam is taken on, and he too was thrust into the role as a true freshman.
“Both those guys are good teachers and have been around for awhile, and in particular Will, came up through the ranks as a true freshman, so he understands how difficult the transition is,” Heater said.