Father Ryan coach Bruce Lussier remembers a play against Ensworth's freshman football team in 2009 that gave a hint of Corn Elder's potential.
Ensworth quarterback Andrew Bowers broke his collarbone in that game, so the Tigers replaced him with Elder.
"(Ensworth) snapped it over Corn's head, and he runs back 10 or 15 yards to go retrieve the ball," Lussier said. "We're chasing him, and then he ends up going 60 yards for a touchdown. That created some space for him."
Opponents have learned since then that giving Elder space is a big mistake.
The Tigers' tailback went on to lead his team to three straight Division II-AA titles. He is The Tennessean 2012 high school football player of the year.
"I think he's as good a running back as I've been around, and I've seen a lot of them over the years," said Lussier, a 39-year veteran. "But he has other skills as well. He's a tremendous punt returner. He can go out and play receiver. He does a great job for them at safety on defense, so he can do a lot of different things."
Elder, a senior, rushed for 2,618 yards and 39 touchdowns this season. That gave him 6,361 career yards, ranking him ninth in state history.
He helped Ensworth (13-0) become the fifth school to win three straight titles.
"Oh, man, it was very hard to win three straight," Elder said. "The first year we started off the season 0-2, but then we ended up winning 10 straight and got the championship. The second year we started off strong, but then we got killed by Baylor. But that was the turning point of our season, and we picked it up and won it all.
"And this year we just wanted to come out, play hard and try to finish undefeated, and we did. It was a challenge, but we were up to it."
This year's team is arguably the best, ranked seventh in the USA TODAY national poll.
"I do think that Corn, individually, gave a phenomenal effort, literally, every time he had the ball," said Ricky Bowers, who has coached Ensworth and Montgomery Bell Academy (1998-2000) to three straight titles. "Not every back can do that, especially if you get as many opportunities as he got. I think that fire is part of his fabric."
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Elder has drawn plenty of interest, getting 12 major college offers. He took his first official visit to UCLA in November and will visit Ohio State in January.
Ensworth offensive coordinator Paul Wade said it's been a hectic pace for Elder as far as recruiting goes.
"We have two or three guys a day usually (during the open periods)," Wade said of the coaches visiting Ensworth to ask about Elder. "If not visiting, phone calls and texts. Basically, they're just trying to find out what Corn is thinking and what his future plans are."
In early December, Wade heard from assistants at Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Memphis, Nebraska, Ohio State and several others.
"I talked to a couple of schools that said I could play (football and basketball), said Elder, who was the Division II basketball tournament MVP the past two seasons.
Elder's 81 rushing touchdowns put him ninth in state history.
"What I think made him so hard for defenses to bring down was just his elusiveness," said Ensworth offensive tackle Jay Heins, a three-year starter. "He had great vision, and he was able to read just about anything."
Elder scored 552 career points, ranking him eighth in state history.
"(Corn) is pretty patient, and he knows when to hit the hole," said MBA nose guard Alex Bars, a major college prospect.
Of all his accomplishments, Elder puts one above the rest.
"The three-peat is at the top," Elder said. "Not a lot of people do it."
MORE ON CORN ELDER
Wt.: 165 pounds
Positions: Tailback/safety/return specialist
Why chosen: Elder was the Division II-AA Mr. Football winner the past two seasons. He led the Tigers to three consecutive state titles. Elder rushed for 2,618 yards and 39 touchdowns this season, averaging 9.4 yards per carry. He rushed for 6,361 career yards, ranking him ninth in state history.
College plans: Elder took his first official visit to UCLA in November. He will take his second to Ohio State in January. Mississippi, Georgia Tech and Miami also are high on his list.
Quote: "It's fun scoring touchdowns and winning games. I hope to play running back or slot in college. I know I'm going to visit Georgia Tech and probably Ole Miss, but I haven't set up my last (visit) yet. Great coaching staff, great relationship with them, great atmosphere, great academics and just the people around me are what matter most."
Family: Parents Sharon Collier and Corneilus Elder; sisters, Charrisse, 24; Jaki Tasha, 20; brothers, Keyshawn, 11; Ernest 1.
What's on your iPod?: "Rap and rhythm and blues. I like Lil Wayne."
Best high school sports moment: "Just winning state -- all five of them (three in football, two in basketball)."
Favorite athlete: "Dwyane Wade. I just grew up liking him when he played at Marquette, and I just followed him to the NBA."
Favorite food: "Steak."
Least favorite part of practice: "The weather."
Athletic background: "I used to play baseball, and I used to run track."
Best Christmas gift: "The best gift I ever got probably was a PlayStation 2 when I was younger."
CORN ELDER'S STATE CAREER RANKINGS
* 552 career points rank eighth.
* 6,361 rushing yards rank ninth.
* 81 rushing touchdowns rank ninth.
RECENT PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2011: I'Tavius Mathers, Blackman
2010: I'Tavius Mathers, Blackman
2009: Bo Wallace, Giles Co.
2008: Marsalis Teague, Henry Co.
2007: Rodriguez Wilks, Smyrna