Jack Daniels has spent 13 successful seasons as football coach at Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer (he's 114-34), but he said Wednesday he has never had a player quite like Matt Elam.
"The thing about him is he's so competitive," Daniels said.
Elam has plenty of natural ability, too.
In fact, when Dwyer plays at Plant in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal, the do-it-all junior, who has committed to Florida, arguably will be the most talented player on the field.
"He's a big-time player," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said.
Quarterback Aaron Murray and tight end/receiver Orson Charles of Plant are rated as four-star prospects by Rivals.com. The same Web site recently tabbed Elam — who plays linebacker, defensive back, receiver and running back and will be wearing No. 22 on Friday — as a likely five-star recruit next year.
On Tuesday, the 6-foot, 205-pound Elam, whose brother Abram is a safety for the New York Jets, was named Palm Beach County Player of the Year, edging Pahokee wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson and Seminole Ridge quarterback Tyler Wilhelm (both seniors) for the honor.
Few were surprised.
In leading the Panthers to a 12-1 record, he totaled more than 1,000 yards of offense to go along with 82 tackles.
"Right now, I think he's the No. 1 junior in the state," Newberg said. "But it's probably premature to say that."
What makes Elam all that?
"I'm going to tell you, he just has such a passion for the game and he's incredibly gifted," Daniels said. "He's like a machine."
It's too early to project what position Elam might play in college, but at Dwyer he has made the biggest impact on defense, primarily at outside linebacker.
"There are not many defensive players I would consider explosive recruits," Newberg said. "But this kid is. He can cover a lot of ground and he'll strike you. He's one of the biggest hitters in the state. He's got great aggressiveness and great versatility."