Cornerback Corn Elder’s career highlight is a play that will forever be ingrained in college football lore: an eight-lateral, game-winning kickoff return at Duke in October 2015.
Chances are that for him, Saturday’s game-changer was even more special.
Elder became the third Hurricane drafted this year – 152nd overall and eighth in the fifth round – when he was selected by the Carolina Panthers.
This year’s draft was loaded with defensive backs, a modern-era record of 29 – 18 cornerbacks and 11 safeties – of them chosen in the first three rounds going into Saturday.
Elder, a 2016 first-team All-ACC selection among coaches, tied for third on the team with 76 tackles last season and led the Hurricanes in pass breakups for the second consecutive year. He had 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Elder said by phone on Thursday from his family’s home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, that he had no expectations.
“I’m just enjoying the moment,’’ he said. “I’ll be doing a little party with my family. I really have no idea what will happen. This is something I’ve been dreaming of ever since I was a kid, and for it to be here now, I’m at a loss for words.’’
No doubt Elder is a talent that offenses tried to avoid, but his one knock is the one he couldn’t control: his size. Elder is 5-10 and 183 pounds.
Regardless, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said before the draft that Elder “beats people up.’’
When asked on UM Pro Day what he could bring to an NFL team, Elder said, “Just a player that’s going to give it his all, and bring toughness, playmaking ability, tackling – just the whole thing. I feel like I’m one of the best corners in the draft, regardless of the size, or whatever they want to use to knock me down.”
Added Elder this week: “…I’ve been training for this forever. I’m just ready to see what’s next for me, just ready for the next chapter in life.’’