Criticized on the field constantly by fans, a lack of help from moving around in shoddy Baltimore secondaries, and early career struggles are small in the scope of safety Matthew Elam's life. While we think Matt isn't "tough enough" to get his skills together, he has been tough enough to overcome life's hardest obstacles. Elam's old coach from Dwyer High school when speaking about him at 21 said, "He's been through more than anyone should have to go through in a lifetime."
At just eight years old Matt and his sister Christina, whom was twelve, innocently were watching TV. Christina left and within the hour a neighbor came banging on the door. A girl had been shot at the park. Matt and his older brother Abram (17) bolted out the door only to find the worst news through their own eyes. Matt's sister bloodied from a bullet in her arm and shoulder. This was a random act of violence as a man fired on the car "to seek retribution for an after-school fight between his sister and another girl" (orlandosentinel.com, Kyle Hightower). The killer was eventually sentenced to thirty years. Elam received no comfort with the sentencing, knowing he would never be with his sister again.
Christina wasn't just another family member. She was there to help Matt deal with his parents divorce at age 5. He attended her track meets during his youth instead of watching his star football playing brother Abram. With the loss of Matt's sister, he buried himself in athletics, eventually becoming one of the first freshmen to start for Palm Beach Lakes' coach Dan Sanso.
This was not the only instance of Matt being around to bury a sibling, as his older brother Donald Jr. was shot and killed near the same park where Christina passed away. This time the killer wasn't sentenced, as the murder has never been solved.
Matt also has gone through burying his father after cancer took the life of Donald Sr. at 64 years old.
To repeat, Matt's struggles on the gridiron are minute compared to the life struggles crashing down on his shoulders. While fans have berated him for his lack of tackling skills or coverage, it's easy to forget these people have lives outside of pro football, and some aren't filled with glitz and glam we all imagine. Even small struggles can affect us at our jobs, and if you're playing the most professional level of any sport with a clouded mind, it's tough to push past.
Just like every other Baltimore Raven fan, I wish Matt the best, and hope he can push beyond life's struggles, become happy, and play football the way he wants to.