After snagging an interception out of the air against Akron, Jett Elad sat on the bench with the gold accessory draped over his shoulder pads.
It was the turnover belt, the award that’s bestowed to whoever records a takeaway on Ohio’s defense. Last season the belt made few appearances and wasn’t worn by anyone more than once.
Don’t tell that to Elad, though. The gold really makes the redshirt freshman’s jersey pop. And if he continues the way he’s been playing it could become a permanent part of his uniform.
Elad currently leads the team with two interceptions and is tied for first in the Mid-American Conference. For Elad, his breakout year wasn’t unexpected but in ways, it has been a wild ride.
“It’s a blessing to be honest,” Elad said. “It’s really big for me to get the role that I’m in right now so I’m just taking it day by day...And it’s kind of surreal for me coming from Toronto, Ontario it’s like I’m far away but now I’m here and it’s just surreal for me.”
Jett-Cornelius Elad was born in Minnesota but soon after moved to Mississauga, Ontario. Mississauga is only 20 minutes away from Oakville, the town Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke hails from. Elad may have been born in the States but he’s proud of the Canadian culture he was raised in.
“Nobody really knows about it (Mississauga) but I’m trying to be the one who puts it on the map,” Elad said.
Elad is off to a great start. In only his second year at Ohio University, Elad has held down the nickelback position. Nickelback is one of the toughest positions to play on defense because it incorporates roles from the linebacker, cornerback and safety positions.
When Elad moved to Cleveland as a freshman in high school he played cornerback for St. Ignatius. Elad has been able to use some of the techniques he learned to help him learn his new role. What may have been his greatest lesson, however, was the wisdom he received from T.J. Carrie, a former Bobcat who currently plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
At the time, Carrie played for the Browns so when Elad ran into him at a movie theater in Cleveland, he had to strike up a conversation. Carrie played nickelback for the Bobcats so there was nobody better to talk to.
“I talked to him a couple times on the phone about it,” Elad said. “And he was telling me the exact same thing about he was playing nickel and how he was playing the hybrid position.”
In order to be a hybrid, you have to have the athleticism to be able to pull it off. For Elad to be successful he has to be quick like a corner, strong like a safety and aggressive like a linebacker. There are only a few players on the team that can handle the role. Ohio coach Frank Solich believes Elad has what it takes to be special.
“He’s got the whole package,” Solich said. “You’re asking those guys at times to step up into the line of scrimmage and make a tackle once they recognize run and take a gap, and yet be able to have the ability to play … smaller kind of guy in the slot with a lot of great quickness and speed. Plus, when he’s in the zone, he’s got a lot of range and he sees things, and he’s able to break on the ball very, very well.”
Solich isn’t the only person that sees the potential. Elad’s teammates have praised his ability to learn the defense and make plays on the big stage.
“I’ve always said he’s one of the most athletic guys I’ve ever played with,” linebacker Keye Thompson said.
Elad will have put that athleticism to test on Saturday against Buffalo. Elad will most likely have to make multiple big-play saving tackles on Jaret Patterson, the Bulls’ running back who many feel like could be a high draft pick in the NFL. Elad’s inexperience can’t be a liability to the Bobcats. He’s making sure that he’s ready for the challenge.
“I saw that Jaret Patterson had a great game,” Elad said. “We’re going to take that into note but it’s not going to change anything that we do, we’re going to do the exact same measures.”
Elad’s preparation will be key for him to have success on Saturday. If he plays his position right it could be the third straight week that he wears the turnover belt. Either way, he’ll be ready to fulfill his role.