Notre Dame commit Jalen Elliott praised for versatility, leadership
Jalen Elliott may be one of the premier wide receivers in the state of Virginia, but you'll have to take his coach's word for it.
Elliott, who verbally committed to Notre Dame last weekend, is too busy excelling everywhere else.
“The biggest thing about Jalen is that he’s just versatile," said David Bedwell, head coach at L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield. "People don’t know it, but he’s probably one of the best wide receivers in the state. We just can’t play him there because he also does a great job for us at quarterback.”
Elliott’s hidden receiving talent is a testament to his diverse skill set. The 6-foot-1, 177-pound athlete is slated to play free safety at Notre Dame, despite the fact that he also starred at quarterback last season at L.C. Bird, passing for 1,736 yards and 24 touchdowns and adding 271 rushing yards and seven more touchdowns on the ground.
But Bedwell said it’s clear that going forward, Elliott can make the most significant impact in the defensive backfield.
"There were a few times during the season when we put him at corner, if there was a really good kid on the other team that was a hard matchup for us, or whatever it was,” Bedwell said. “I think with his size and his length and his ability, and with the way he communicates with guys on the team, with the way he plays football, safety is the natural fit for him.”
Elliott also found a natural fit at L.C. Bird. Though the consensus three-star prospect transferred to the school prior to the 2014 season, it didn’t take him long to assimilate.
“Even in the first week that he was with us, you could tell that he picked up things really quickly, which helped him,” Bedwell said. “And at the same time, he was able to help other kids who had even been in our program for two years, and say, ‘If you do something this way, it might help you.’ He was voted the team captain in his first year. He was the only junior to be voted team captain for us last year. It obviously says a lot about the kid and how the guys felt about Jalen.”
Elliott’s playmaking ability, combined with his natural leadership skills, quickly altered expectations for L.C. Bird’s 2014 season.
“We were coming off two great seasons, back-to-back state championships,” Bedwell explained. “Last year, everyone kind of thought we would be down and we would be rebuilding. Even as a staff, we thought, ‘Hey, we’ve got some young guys that might take a year or so to develop, and then we can make another run.’
“And then all of a sudden Jalen shows up and takes over our football team, not just on offense but defense, too. He becomes the leader, and then, boom, we’re right back in the thick of things. He’s leading us and doing all the things the kids before him did. He was the big reason why we were able to repeat for a third time last year.”
Elliott has made an immediate impression in more places than the gridiron in his brief time at L.C. Bird. His dedication to academics, besides his natural athleticism, fit the profile for a prospective Notre Dame football player.
“Jalen has only been with us for a year, but you can go to every teacher in the building at Bird High and say, ‘Tell me about Jalen Elliott.’ And even if Jalen’s not in their class, somebody would have something positive to say about that kid,” Bedwell said. “‘He did this with a kid in my class,’ or, ‘He was a mentor for this kid.’
“That’s the kind of kid that he is. His parents are both educators. His dad is an assistant principal. His mom is an administrator in a nearby county. So education is really important to him. Jalen is the oldest of four, so he has a lot of responsibility as the big brother. He takes all those roles very seriously. It’s pretty impressive for a 17-year-old kid.”
Elliott, who also touted offers from the likes of Auburn, Georgia, Miami, Maryland, Virginia Tech and more, didn’t expect to commit to Notre Dame when he stepped on campus for Irish Invasion last weekend.
Even so, the decision wasn’t a hasty one.
“Jalen’s been to Auburn. Jalen’s been to Georgia. Jalen’s been to Virginia Tech. Jalen’s been down to Miami,” Bedwell said. “Jalen’s been down to a bunch of big schools, so for Notre Dame to put that impression on Jalen, there was something there that caught his eye. Kids know when it’s right for them.
“He said (defensive backs) Coach (Todd) Lyght had a huge impact on him in the short time he spent with him. That was the guy that was going to mentor and mold him, and that’s the guy he’s going to be spending most of his time with. That was really important. He just told me, ‘When I got there, I knew. I don’t know why. There wasn’t one particular thing. It was just the overall environment.’”