He signed with Ole Miss in 2012 despite offers from LSU and others because he wanted to carve his own path. He showed the depths of his competitiveness when he started 44 games in four years as a starter at safety. When bumps in the road came throughout his career — including a controversial suspension by the league office for a hit in a Rebel win over UTEP in his freshman season — he overcame and, in the end, thrived, going on to earn All-American distinction in 2015.
So he didn’t flinch once word came down he hadn’t received an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in February. But scouts took notice of the snub for him, including Dane Brugler, senior NFL Draft analysts for NFLDraftScout and CBS Sports.
“I think Trae Elston was one of the more notable combine snubs,” Brugler said. “Undersized, and I think that shows at times. But he’s a player who played the free, played rover (and) I really like his recognition skills against the run and the way he can break down and throw his body around. He’s a sound tackler. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, very scrappy player, plays with a chip. You can use a guy like that on your defense. I think Trae Elston is definitely a guy to watch.”
Elston had to wait over a month for his showcase for NFL teams. Over 60 scouts, coaches and front-office types were in attendance for Ole Miss pro day last week, and Elston put his best foot forward, including running his 40-yard dash in the 4.4-4.5 range.
“It’s a little disappointment, but I don’t look at it like that,” Elston said of not getting a combine invite. “I look at it just to get myself ready for pro day and make myself a better athlete. Just, like I said, 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. It really showed me I had something to prove, and I’m still trying to prove it now.”
His tape proves plenty. He recorded 70 tackles, five tackles for loss, four interceptions (two returned for a touchdown) and 14 passes defended as a senior en route to All-SEC first team honors. By comparison, Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey — widely regarded as a top-5 selection — posted 52 tackles, 3.5 tackle for loss, one sack, zero interceptions and nine passes defended last season.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay named Elston as one of his eight combine omissions, issuing Elston a fourth or fifth-round grade.
“They just like how aggressive I am,” Elston said of the evaluations he’s gotten from NFL teams. “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. they thought I was a 4.6 type of guy, 4.7, but they said I needed to run a 4.4 or 4.5 and I did that so that’s pretty good.
He’s talked a lot with the Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. Those aren’t the only ones, of course. The next few weeks in the lead-up to the draft will bring more private meetings with teams -- all of which have boasted about his pass coverage ability.
Elston said he isn’t sure yet of where he’ll watch the draft, but he knows he’ll be with his family.
“There’s a lot of guys, undersized, about 5-11,” Elston said, when asked of his NFL players he compares to. “Errol Thomas, Derrek Weber type of guys. The Ed Reeds, Troy Polamalus. Those guys are about 5-11, 200 range. I kind of see myself like those, but there’s only one Trae Elston.”
Rest assured that team will be getting a determined player wherever he ends up. Because even with all he’s accomplished in his football life, Elston is still out to show he belongs.
“As a freshman a lot of people told me cherish these moments,” he said. “I tried to do that my junior, senior year because my freshman, sophomore year went by so quick. I see Donte (Moncrief), all those guys leaving and telling me to cherish your senior moment.”
Core Opening Eyes
Laquon Treadwell took top billing among Rebel wide receivers in his three seasons at Ole Miss. But all the while, there was Cody Core, always producing and carving out one of the more underrated careers in school football history.
He’s out of the shadows now.
Core has seen his professional stock quickly climb throughout the draft process. He’s considered a potential third to fifth-round pick by various outlets, though Brugler has him pegged as a late-round selection. Core opened eyes when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the combine, and during Ole Miss pro day he recorded a 6.75-second three-cone drill and 4.4 short shuttle to go with a 37.5-inch vertical and 116-inch broad jump.
“Obviously Laquon’s the top wide receiver, but Core’s a guy that’s interesting late on day three (of the draft) to be a late-round pick,” Brugler said. “He’s athletic, he has ball skills and he can elevate to attack. There’s a lot of things to like about Cody Core moving forward.”
Core appeared in 25 games through his first two seasons at Ole Miss, catching five passes for 95 yards while spelling in on special teams and at defensive back to make 16 tackles. That versatility certainly helps his case for making a roster, as does the 78 receptions and over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final two seasons.
He worked out for the New England Patriots in late-March, as well as held private workouts with the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals.
“I’m trying to let them know I can be more than special teams,” Core said. “I can do everything at receiver, whatever they want me to, inside, outside. I still feel like I’m underrated. I’m trying to get to the top.”
Core said he’s undecided on whether or not he’ll watch the draft. Actually, the realization of his lifelong dream has barely even registered yet. But his time will be here soon enough.
“It hasn’t hit me just yet but it probably will about a week until the draft,” he said. “Right now, from the combine to now, slowly, it has.”