Matt Elam was one of the hardest-hitting safeties I've ever seen in college football. He's part of the reason Florida is known for physical defensive backs (does Major Wright's massive hit against Oklahoma in the 2008 national title game ring a bell?). He packed a massive punch in his 5-foot-10-inch, 208-pound frame.
While college football looks more like a pillow fight these days, considering any big hits are immediately flagged, just a decade ago, that wasn't the case. When Florida and Florida State took each other on at The Swamp in 2011, for what is always expected to be a heated rivalry matchup, Matt Elam laid a WWE-style hit that was big enough to make any Gator proud.
Matt Elam's Body Slam Tackle vs. FSU in 2011
Now THAT is the type of tackle that will pump a sideline. Elam just full-on threw FSU running back Jermaine Thomas like he was a rag doll -- in front of then-FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher. And understandably, FSU players weren't happy with it. Elam was flagged, but so was the Florida State player who quickly got in Elam's face. Sure, Florida may have been down 21-7 at the time, with just a few minutes to go in the game, but that's the type of physicality I'd like to see even when the team is down.
FSU may have won the game, but this tackle will be remembered longer than the final score. The Seminoles would go on to win a national championship a couple seasons later under Jameis Winston. Matt Elam was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens and spent a few seasons in the NFL. His UF legacy has been somewhat tarnished by run-ins with the law since then, but he's still playing football in 2022; the Orlando Guardians selected him in the 2023 XFL Draft.
It doesn't matter where these teams are ranked when they meet in Tallahassee or Gainesville. Anything can happen. I'm sure Elam's hit won't be the last of its kind.
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