Posted: 10:02 am Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
By Jason Lieser
Former Dwyer standout Matt Elam is irreplaceable, on or off the field.
Panthers coach Jack Daniels said throughout the 2009 season that Elam was the best high school player he had ever seen, but Elam also created the biggest recruiting circus in Daniels’ two decades coaching football.
“It was one of a kind,” Daniels said. “It’s never been like that before and will probably never be like that again. He was so highly recruited and he flip-flopped back and forth—there were so many things that played into it.
“I’m definitely glad it’s over. Fielding calls at all hours of the day from all kinds of schools when a kid’s been committed for so long — the last couple days have been crazy. That was a headache.”
Elam went against Daniels’ advice by committing to the Florida Gators as a junior in October 2008.
He then wavered after visits to West Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State and committed to the Seminoles on New Year’s Eve. That connection lasted exactly four days. When Elam spoke with Florida coach Urban Meyer on the phone Jan. 4, Daniels said that conversation pulled him back to the Gators.
Elam announced his commitment to Florida (again) during Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl. For Gator fans who still worry, the University of Florida registrar’s office confirmed the enrollment of a student named Matthew Elam from Dwyer High School.
“The bottom line was the relationship he had with Coach Meyer,” Daniels said. “Once Coach Meyer got him on the phone and told him to have faith, he turned back to Florida that day. But I really think if Coach Meyer wasn’t going to coach, he was content to go to Florida State.”
After Elam jilted Florida State, Daniels was vilified on Seminoles message boards and accused of steering his star player to the Gators.
Daniels grew up a Florida fan, and most of his family graduated from the school, and played for the team as a walk-on cornerback. Despite his allegiance as a fan of the Gators, Daniels said he did not push Elam to Florida or any other school.
“Whatever I say, it’s probably not going to be believed because I’m a Gator,” Daniels said.
“My role is to sit down with Matt and answer his questions and help him do whatever he needs to do to make that decision. I don’t want any influence on it.
“I was disappointed when I heard he wasn’t going to Florida because that’s where he had been committed. I’m a fan of Matt Elam’s, not the Florida program. I’m a fan of Wisconsin because I have a player there. If I have player at Florida State, I’ll pull for Florida State.”
Daniels said his school’s relationship with the Seminoles has “soured” because of Elam’s de-commitment, but in recruiting, both sides have to be quick to forgive. Florida State already has offers in to juniors Curt Maggitt, a defensive end, and Nick O’Leary, a tight end.
“We’ve got some good underclassmen, so we’ll patch things up,” Daniels said.