He sprinted to the football and made a leaping catch in traffic to pull down the interception. Then he jumped up to his feet and threw his arms in the air to celebrate– and that’s when his teammates yelled at him to start running for a return.
“I was so excited that I got the pick that I forgot about the rules,” Elam said, referencing the college rules where players are down when they hit the turf. “Everybody told me to get up and run so I decided to get up and run.”
Elam made it about 20 yards upfield before the play was blown dead, and then his teammates all swarmed him to celebrate the interception.
“That was a great feeling to pick Joe off, the Super Bowl champion,” Elam said. “It’s always great to pick off a great quarterback.”
The play during Wednesday’s minicamp practice was the latest sign that the Ravens’ first-round draft pick is settling in just fine with his new team. He’s about six weeks into his NFL career, and the All-American from Florida is showing why the Ravens targeted him in the draft.
“Matt Elam is what we expected and maybe a little bit more,” Secondary Coach Teryl Austin said. “[He’s] going through the usual changes that a rookie goes through, but he’s smart. He’s tough, he’s fast, he gets football, and I think he is going to be a fine player for us soon.”
Elam came to Baltimore with a reputation as a player who always seemed to be around the football. He’s a hard hitter who can come up in the box to defend the run, and he also has speed in coverage, notching six interceptions over the last two years.
He’s taken reps with the first team and looks right at home in the defense.
“I feel very confident. I’m coming along, catching the defense fast, so I feel great,” Elam said. “If you have a lot of confidence, then you play well. You feel highly about yourself, then you’re going to play well. I feel like that’s what it’s all about.”
Elam impressed the Ravens during the pre-draft process with his intelligence and knowledge of the game. He’s put that on display during his first couple months in the NFL, which has allowed him to quickly grasp the defense.
“He has a lot of things to learn, but he’s learning them, because he is bright, and he gets football,” Austin said. “He has a lot of stuff to work on, and our job is to get him there by the season.”
When mandatory minicamp breaks on Thursday, a number of veterans will head out of town for their last bit of relaxation before training camp starts next month.
The rookies still have another week left of football school before they get a break, and Elam’s focus over the next month is to refine his understanding of the defense before the start of training camp.
“It’s just keep on improving and keep on studying,” Elam said. “I have to stay in my playbook and continue to learn, and then the sky will be the limit."