Even a 3XL football jersey is fairly snug on Matt Elam.
And it's Elam's 6-foot-5, 360-pound frame -- along with his mobility at the line of scrimmage -- that helped him earn that extra, extra, extra-large new jersey and an official invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Tuesday during a ceremony at the John Hardin High School gymnasium.
It was a big honor for a big young man who is at the center of a recruiting battle pitting some of college football's most tradition-rich programs against the universities of Kentucky and Louisville.
"I just think it's the best All-American game, it's on nationally TV, and I like the big stage," Elam said of the Army Bowl, to be played Jan. 4 at the Alamadome in San Antonio. He'll announce his college decision on TV during the game.
Elam narrowed his choices to UK, U of L, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee. He said Tuesday that UK, Alabama, and Notre Dame are, in no order, his three favorites.
U of L remains on the list for Elam, although it's in the second tier of contenders, and Elam, the nation's No. 7 prospect by 247Sports.com, said it's possible he'll trim his list sometime soon to three or four.
The Wildcats have made Elam a major priority, but they face the stiffest of competition.
Elam revealed Tuesday that UK had a lead in his recruitment two or three months ago, but the Crimson Tide and the Irish have caught up. He said Alabama's coaches are the ones he has the best relationship with, and Notre Dame worked its way into his top three by impressing him on his recent official visit to South Bend.
"I would say Kentucky had a lead at a point, but now, I see all the other colleges are great opportunities for me, too, and not just to stay in state," he said. " ... I want to go play for a great program with a winning tradition."
Elam said, however, the Wildcats, whom he'll officially visit on Dec. 14, remain well-positioned, and he is intrigued by the idea of being an All-America recruit for an in-state team that needs a lot of help. His friend, Conner quarterback and Army All-American Drew Barker, is already committed to UK.
He said UK's 1-6 start, including a 48-7 pummeling at the hands of Alabama in a game Elam attended, hasn't negatively affected his opinion of the Cats because the team was expected to struggle this year and coach Mark Stoops has them playing hard.
"I could go to Alabama, and they're already good, and I could just go in there and be another guy with the great opportunity they have there," he said. "Or I could go to Kentucky and change their program. That's a lot to think about."
-- Steve Jones