As draft nears, Elston has ‘something to prove’
Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016
Trae Elston is used to getting overlooked.
Undersized for his position, the former Ole Miss safety wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. Multiple years of starting experience in the Southeastern Conference wasn’t enough to get an invite to the Senior Bowl or last month’s NFL Scouting Combine.
Elston didn’t necessarily view all of that as a bad thing, but he admitted he’s preparing for this year’s NFL Draft with a chip on his shoulder.
“Not going to the Senior Bowl game and not getting invited to the combine really let me lay back and really work really hard while people going to the Senior Bowl are taking a week off instead of training, trying to get fast and get bigger,” Elston said. “It really showed me I had something to prove, and I’m still trying to prove it now.”
Elston got his chance to perform for representatives from all 32 NFL teams at Ole Miss’ Pro Day on Monday and raised some eyebrows. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Elston went through position drills and ran the second-fastest unofficial 40-yard dash of the day with a time a 4.46 seconds, an important number for Elston to enhance his value.
“(Teams) thought I was a 4.6 type of guy or 4.7, but they said I needed to run a 4.4 or 4.5 and I did that, so that’s pretty good,” Elston said.
As for his production, Elston can point to nearly four years as a starter at both free safety and rover. He started 44 games and finished his college career with 246 tackles, ranking among the Rebels’ top six tacklers each season.
“I started meeting with GMs and people early (Monday) morning, like 5:00. That’s a name that keeps coming up,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “The guy started like, what, 44 games for us and played really good football. Everybody is intrigued by him, and he certainly helped himself (Monday).”
Elston’s biggest strides his senior year came in coverage. He broke up 16 passes, more than double the amount in any of his first three seasons, and pulled down a career-high four interceptions.
“(Teams) just like how aggressive I am,” Elston said. “I’m undersized. I can come into the box a lot and show a lot of quick speed. I got a lot of range at the free safety position.”
Elston said the Vikings, Steelers and Lions have been in contact with him the most. Elston knows a long career at the next level is possible with smaller safeties such as Seattle’s Earl Thomas and Baltimore’s Eric Weddle excelling in the league, and he’s out to make the same name for himself wherever he ends up.
“Those guys are about 5-11, 200 range,” Elston said. “I kind of see myself like those, but there’s only one Trae Elston.”