David Bedwell has won three straight Virginia state championships at L.C. Bird High School, so he knows talent when he sees it.
“Notre Dame is getting a good one,” Bedwell said. “Obviously I think he’s a little under the radar. I don’t know what all these stars mean because it depends on who you’re talking to … but obviously if Notre Dame thought he was worthy of a scholarship and he got there and liked it, and from what I understand he performed well at the Irish Invasion.
“He’s going to fit in well and find a way to get on the field because that’s the kind of kid he is.”
Elliott, who initially committed to Virginia Tech, transferred to Bird before last season. He originally was slotted to play wide receiver but stepped in at quarterback to help the team.
The move paid off as he passed for more than 1,700 yards and threw 27 touchdown passes to lead the Skyhawks to a 14-2 record and a third straight state championship.
“Jalen really stepped in and last spring when we got him he came and worked out with us and did a great job,” Bedwell said. “We thought he was going to be a receiver on offense and we knew he was going to play defensive back but we didn’t know where. Offensively, he’s probably one of the best receivers in the state of Virginia and we thought he was going to play there and he ended up being our quarterback because we didn’t have one. Jalen is just a really good leader, a competitor. He ended up throwing 27 touchdown passes and leading us to another state championship. That’s not bad for his first year at quarterback.”
On defense, Elliott spent most of his time at free safety but bounced around to keep the opposing team’s best receiver off the stat sheet.
“For us at defensive back he played safety, he played corner, he played strong safety. He played wherever we needed him that week as far as matchups and who we were playing kind of dictated where he played on defense,” Bedwell said. “That’s kind of why he’s so versatile there.”
Notre Dame recruited Elliott for safety but also mentioned cornerback.
“There’s just a lot of things Jalen does really well and I think that’s part of the reason they were so intrigued with him,” Bedwell said.
Defensively, Elliott thrives on his athleticism.
During the Irish Invasion he began to implement the technique he learned from Notre Dame defensive backs coach Todd Lyght.
“I have a lot to work on technique-wise, but it was really my first time playing fully as a DB,” Elliott said. “I played straight off athletic ability and I know in college you have to have technique. For the most part I learned a new type of coverage with the man press and just keeping my eyes on the man. I started to play a lot better close to the end when I started getting used to it. I feel like I was one of the top DBs out there but I know I always have to keep working and getting better so I can be one of the best in the country.”
Bedwell believes Elliott can get there.
“Athletically, obviously, he’s got all the tools and I think that’s actually part of the reason why I think he’s so intriguing to people is because he is raw, so whatever they teach him is going to be the first thing he’s learned,” Bedwell said. “Whatever he learns is going to be the Notre Dame way and that’s going to be something he’s going to be able to start off with. It’s not like he’s going to have a lot of bad habits and have to change a lot of things because he is learning the position. Learning the position the Notre Dame way will help him out in the long run.”
Bedwell said Elliott is a natural leader, evidenced by being voted captain as a junior.
“All the kids seem to respond to him,” Bedwell said. “He’s very competitive and that’s what you want out of a guy who is leading your team. Hopefully he can do it again this year.”
On top of that leadership angle, Elliott added a competitive edge to the Skyhawks’ roster too.
“That’s the thing that I think sets him apart and makes him special is the way he goes about preparing and competing,” Bedwell said. “He always wants to guard the other team’s best receiver and he always wants to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line on offense. He’s begging you to return kicks and begging you to get on the punt team. The kid just wants to play. That’s the thing that sets him apart.
“All the great ones have those kinds of qualities and that’s what he’s done for us and that’s the way he does it. His football IQ is very smart too. For him to be so versatile and play so many different positions and not just play them but to excel at them and be good, that tells you a little bit about the kid as far as what he knows about what’s going on on the field at all times.”
According to Bedwell, Elliott is a standout off the field as well.
“Great kid, great family,” he said. “Education is really important to him and his family. Both his parents are educators. One is an assistant principal and one is an administrator within the Hanover County school system so education is real important. He’s a really good student, he’s like a 3.6-3.7 kind of kid and all his teachers rave about him. You never hear about anything going on that shouldn’t be going on. He’s just a great kid and a great representative of our football program.”