Once a promising defensive talent at Notre Dame, Jets safety Abram Elam was forced to transfer to Kent State when he was convicted of a sexual battery charge that stemmed from an off-campus incident in 2002. Elam received two years probation, and community service, for his role.
Needless to say, given Elam's past, the team's decision to sign the free-agent safety drew quite a few perplexed looks from the folks looking on. But then again, appearances can be deceiving.
"Obviously, there were some issues that happened earlier in his career," Jets GM, Mike Tannenbaum told Newsday. "and Steve [Yarnell, the Jets' director of security] did a lot of work on him and said he was a good person and what happened was aberrational,"
Elam speaks in hushed tones, showing a genuine sense of humility as he interacts with the media. In fact, the more time you spend talking to the twenty-five year old, the less sense it makes that he would be involved in such an incident, and the more sense it makes that the team was able to make an exception to their "character" policy to sign him.
After two career starts, the team is happy that they did.
Impressed with Elam's efforts, Eric Mangini elected to start Elam against the Bengals, a decision that paid immediate dividends.
"That was a coaching decision," Mangini said when questioned as to why Erik Coleman was benched in Cincinnati. "I thought that (Abram) Elam had done a good job (in practice) and had been doing a particularly good job in the running game. (I) wanted to give him an opportunity."
Elam recorded, a team high eight tackles and seemed to constantly disrupt the Bengal's offense. He followed up the strong performance in Cincinnati with seven tackles last week against the Bills.
Defensively, the Jets have struggled all season long. They have had a hard time finding a safety to play opposite Kerry Rhodes, and the emergence of Elam has been a welcomed surprise.
The Jets braintrust has been met with recent criticism as many of their critics feel that they did not properly address their personnel needs over the off-season. Such questioning may in fact be warranted as the team clearly has holes on both sides of the ball.
But if nothing else, the Mangini/Tannenbaum duo does deserve credit for the due diligence work they did in the case of Abram Elam. They dug below the surface and seemingly emerged with a gem.