Virginia native Jalen Elliott is all in for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

On the same weekend when Jalen Elliott attended his first Notre Dame game, the rest of his family was prepping for a different matchup — Virginia Tech and Ohio State.

It’s hard to blame the Elliott household for getting fired up for the Hokies hosting the defending national champions. Both Elliott’s parents and his grandfather attended Virginia Tech.

But Elliott, in the same way he chose to stray from his family by committing to Notre Dame, didn’t believe Virginia Tech would beat Ohio State again. He was right.

“I told them, ‘When you’re the No. 1 team in the country and you got beat by one team last year, you’re going to come in and probably have a chip on your shoulder,’” Elliott said. “I didn’t think it was going to be much of a game.”

When Elliott, now a senior quarterback and defensive back at Chesterfield (Va.) L.C. Bird, first started to emerge as a promising young football player, many believed he would follow his parents to Virginia Tech. The Hokies offered, but he still chose Notre Dame.

“That was one of the reasons why I shied away from it,” said Elliott, a three-star recruit. “Everybody had always told me that once I got a Tech offer, that’s where I was going. I wanted to make my own path.”

Now the Irish will travel to Charlottesville to play Virginia this Saturday for the first football game in Notre Dame history to be played in the commonwealth. The Cavaliers also recruited Elliott.

Notre Dame’s ACC heavy schedule did not play a role in Elliott’s recruitment, he said, but realizing the number of games his family could see in the area was a welcomed surprise.

“To know that they’ll come all the way out here, that’s big for my family,” Elliott said. “That’s a game that all of my family can come see. That’s huge.”

Elliott made a long road trip of his own this past weekend to watch the Irish torch the Longhorns. It was his first visit back since committing to Notre Dame in June and his first game day experience.

“For such a small school, I didn’t expect such a big turnout,” Elliott said. “It was great. To see the stands filled up all the way to the top was just amazing. A lot of diehard fans. It was great to see and great to know that I’m going to be playing in front of that.”

Besides spending time helping recruit some of the other prospects visiting, Elliott was focused on the play of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s defense.

“They got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. That makes it a lot easier for the DBs to be that much better,” Elliott said. “When a quarterback is pressured, he’s going to throw some bad passes. The DBs looked pretty good breaking on the ball. The safeties looked pretty good staying over the top. If the pressure stays up like that and they keep pushing and playing coach VanGorder’s aggressive style of defense, we could make a lot of plays.”

Elliott, at 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds, has been projected as a safety in Notre Dame’s defense. But he’s also been asked to learn the cornerback and nickelback positions to add to his versatility.

Playing all over the field isn’t new for Elliott. He’s doing it every week for L.C. Bird. The Skyhawks are 2-0 this season with Elliott playing quarterback, cornerback and safety and are looking to repeat as state champions.

The L.C. Bird defense has yet to surrender a point with its starters on the field. Last week, Elliott returned an interception for a 71-yard touchdown. While throwing isn’t his best skill — he missed on all five of his pass attempts last week with two interceptions — Elliott said it’s easy to balance playing both sides of the ball. Mostly because of his confidence on defense.

“I have a lot to improve on at the college level, but at the high school level, I feel pretty dominant at the DB position,” Elliott said. “They haven’t thrown my way much and I don’t have a lot of film on it, but I’m definitely looking to show more — breaking on passes, my backpedal, my breaks.”

Elliott will shadow a team’s top receiver as a cornerback if needed or he will keep everything in front of him at safety.

“Any type of competition I can get on the field, I’ll take that challenge with open arms.” Elliott said. “I love competition. I love the fact that they have the confidence in me to go check the best receiver on the other team.”

Elliott has the same level of confidence in the outcome of Saturday’s game. His Irish commitment is clear.

“To know that Virginia was one of the first schools that started recruiting me, it’s funny to see now the school that I’m going to coming to play them,” Elliott said. “I don’t think it’s going to be close, but we’ll see.”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Jalen Elliot (left), here attending the Irish Invasion Camp at Notre Dame this past June, is one of seven recruits in ND's current class who hails from ACC territory. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)