Rookie Matt Elam knows the opportunity he has in front of him.
The safety out of Florida has a chance to earn a starting job coming out of training camp, and could take over a spot that was held down by a future Hall of Famer for the last decade. As Elam begins his first training camp in Baltimore, expectations are sky-high for the Ravens' first-round pick.
"People have high expectations of me. They want me to do great things," Elam said. "But I've got to live up to my own expectations.
"I've got very high expectations for myself. I feel like if I go out and keep on improving, it will take care of itself."
In his first few months on the job, Elam has lived up to his billing. He's impressed the coaches and his teammates in practice, and has quickly picked up the defensive schemes.
Elam has also slimmed down, losing about eight pounds to get down to 200 for the start of training camp.
"He's definitely a natural," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's got a gift for understanding the game from back there – his spacing, his awareness of routes, his understanding of where he needs to be relative to the guys around him."
Elam is in the middle of a competition with veterans Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo for a starting job. All three safeties have the ability to play strong or free safety, which gives the Ravens versatility when putting together their defense.
It's still far too early in training camp to determine who will get the starting nod, but Harbaugh made it clear that the Ravens anticipate Elam being a key piece of the defense.
"He should progress really quickly," Harbaugh said. "Now, he's going to make his mistakes, but they all do. He is going to be a big factor for us."
Elam was an All-American last year at Florida after he totaled four interceptions and 76 tackles. He's an instinctive player with a reputation as a playmaker who finds the football – much like his predecessor Ed Reed – and he has an aggressiveness that the coaches like.
"Certainly he'll make a few mistakes here and there, but Matt will make them fast," Harbaugh said. "He's a very aggressive player, very smart, and he's going to be a key contributor for us."
Elam is not only smart on the football field, but he's business-savvy away from it. The 32nd-overall pick broke the mold of most rookies and negotiated his contract without an agent. He had a team of people around him who helped in the process, including his older brother Abram, a seven-year NFL veteran.
"Yeah, I saved a lot of money," Elam said. "I built the team that helped me, that gave me the knowledge and taught me a lot of things for me to look over the contract and know it to a 'T.'"