Chaz Elder becomes role model

ATLANTA -- There has never been a shortage of talent at Atlanta Benjamin Banneker High School, not with 11 prospects signing with Football Bowl Subdivision programs over the years, including eight with SEC programs. That number likely will soon be nine with four-star defensive back Chaz Elder set to decide among Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Elder has reeled in nine interceptions, taken multiple kicks back for a touchdown and made close to 200 tackles over the past couple of years, but more importantly, Elder has succeeded off the field and in the classroom.

"Hard work pays off, and Chaz is an outstanding young man who has done everything the right way as far as striving to become a true student-athlete," Banneker coach Marquis Slaton said. "He has raised the bar for future players at Banneker High School to excel in the classroom as well as the football field."

Elder, the No. 7 safety in the country, has put in countless hours in the film room and the classroom in his quest to become a student of the game, and when dozens of colleges started showing interest, his mother was not surprised.

"He always dreamed about this and going to the NFL, and I have always stood behind him and told him if he kept a positive attitude that he could do it," Lilshonda Elder said. "He has done his class work and stayed out of trouble, so I always felt like he had a chance to succeed. I am most proud of him being a good student as well as a good football player."

Chaz Elder's efforts on and off the field have resulted in selection to the Under Armour All-America Game, set to take place Jan. 5 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The 80-man roster features many of the nation's top prospects, and past selections include A.J. Green, Da'Quan Bowers and Julio Jones. Elder received his jersey Tuesday as part of the 80-stop American Family Insurance Presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour. One of the final selections to the game, Elder did not hesitate to express his gratitude for the opportunity to showcase his talents on a national stage.

"I am so thankful for my coaches for helping me become the player I am, but I did not expect all of this, especially when I was a freshman and did not play football," Elder said. "But it all started coming together my sophomore year, and now I see a lot of similarities between myself and Stephon Gilmore, because we are both bigger cornerbacks that can cover. I am very excited to go up against some of the top receivers in the country."

Slaton said he believes Elder's work ethic is the reason for his many accolades, and he hopes it will rub off on the Banneker underclassmen.

"His mental capacity is what separates him from other athletes in the area," Slaton said. "He is a student of the game that has spent a lot of time watching film and on the chalkboard with the coaches. Not just on defense, but trying to learn all three phases of the game. He has kept his composure in adversity, and has used that to develop into a leader and role model for his teammates and the younger players. He has set a great example, and he has continued our pipeline here at Banneker."

Earlier this year in a pivotal region game against a rival school, Elder had two kickoff returns for a touchdown and picked off a pass to seal the win for the Trojans.

"He single-handedly beat a team for us, and that is something I will always remember," Slaton said.

Elder remains uncommitted, even though one school has been on top for several months.

"I have a leader in South Carolina but am still not sure yet," Elder said. "That is why I am looking at Georgia and Vanderbilt. I am still open and interested in all three schools, and all three are still coming after me hard, and I plan to have them for in-home visits soon, as well as Arkansas."

A decision was planned in August, but come decision day, Elder said he was postponing his announcement. His mother was not surprised by the delay, but she expressed excitement about getting the commitment out of the way soon.

"The recruiting process has been a little tough because at first he did not know which way he wanted to go, but we think we have a decision," Lilshonda Elder said. "I do not know why he postponed his decision in August, but he is one of those people who does not like telling people no. Now he is excited and ready to play in the SEC."

Kipp Adams has covered University of Georgia recruiting since 2006. He can be reached at KippAdamsESPN@gmail.com or on Twitter @KippLAdams.