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Former Gators safety Matt Elam's hard-hitting ways are a perfect fit for Baltimore's physical style.

Friday April 26, 2013Elam's Physical Style a Perfect Match for Ravens

Former Gators safety Matt Elam's hard-hitting ways are a perfect fit for Baltimore's physical style.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK – As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium to announce the final selection of the first round, former Gators safety Matt Elam stood surrounded by family and friends at his home in South Florida more than 1,200 miles from Radio City Music Hall.

When Goodell informed everyone that the Baltimore Ravens had taken Elam with the 32nd overall pick, a party broke out at Elam’s house. Friends and family cheered as Elam danced and quickly pulled a Ravens skull cap over his head.

The hard-hitting safety from Palm Beach who opted to leave school after his junior season was going to a team whose down-and-dirty image mirrors his perfectly.

The defending Super Bowl champions are in a rebuilding mode on defense after losing linebacker Ray Lewis to retirement, safety Ed Reed to the Texans and releasing veteran safety Bernard Pollard.

They made no secret of their excitement that Elam remained on the board as the first round came to a close late Thursday night.

“I talked to my wife this afternoon,’’ Baltimore coach John Harbaugh told reporters stationed at the team’s draft headquarters. “She said, 'Who do you hope to get?' It was Matt Elam. I couldn't be more excited about it.”

Veteran Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome felt the same way despite some chatter the 5-foot-10, 208-pound Elam might be a little undersized.

Newsome didn’t buy that theory after watching film of Elam drilling Southeastern Conference receivers and ball carriers.

“Even though it was a position of need, whether you all believe it or not, he was the highest-rated player on our board,” Newsome said. “The thing we like about Matt is his speed. He's probably one of the better tacklers that we've seen play the position, and he enjoys practice and enjoys playing the game of football.”

Elam was the third safety selected Thursday behind Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans, 15th pick) and LSU’s Eric Reid (San Francisco, 18th pick). Prior to the draft, he said Cincinnati and Carolina had shown the most interest.

Standing outside his home talking to a local radio station shortly after being drafted, Elam mentioned a new source of motivation. He is being introduced at a press conference in Baltimore on Friday afternoon.

“It’s a great opportunity that a lot of people don’t have,” Elam told ESPN 106.3. “But I feel like being the third safety coming out of the draft, it gave me a little chip on my shoulder. I’m going to go in and work and I’m going to have that in my backpack every day I go to work.”

The Ravens probably like hearing that.

Florida coach Will Muschamp, who traveled to New York to attend his first NFL Draft, wasn’t surprised the Ravens decided to use a first-round pick on Elam, who had 76 tackles (11 for lost yardage) and a team-leading four interceptions last season.

“You turn on the tape and it's pretty obvious football is very important to him,’’ Muschamp said. “They'll get a great competitor. He enjoys playing the game. He's extremely intelligent, a really good communicator. He sees the game really well. He's a physical, tough football player.

“He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. He throws his body around. He's got ball hawk ability. I think he's going to be outstanding. He's a violent tackler. He's got really good explosion. He can really snap his hits. He can be a box safety. He can play with range.”

Florida fans watched as Elam dished out hits the past three seasons. When asked by Baltimore reporters about his reputation as a physical and intimidating player, Elam let them know he plans to play the same way in the NFL.

That’s the only way he knows how to, which should fit right in with the Ravens.

“I’m going to make the receiver be scared that he’s not going to come my way the next time,’’ Elam said. “I know coming in and they are expecting to me to do great things. I’m going to come in and work and make sure I’m a great fit for the Ravens.”

From what Newsome saw on film preparing for the draft, Elam has the potential to fit like a glove. He said that Elam will likely have an opportunity to start as a rookie if he has a good camp in light of the recent departures of Reed and Pollard.

“The way he played on tape is the way you have to play in the AFC North,’’ Newsome said.

 

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