HAMPTON, Va. — Meeting with a reporter at a restaurant in his hometown back in May, Elijah Conliffe doesn’t need to offer any insight or explanation as to how he landed around 30 scholarship offers to play college football or why the Florida Gators were especially excited to officially add him to their 2017 signing class.
That part is immediately apparent from his mature, power-packed 6-foot-4, 312-pound frame as he arrives. If anything, it’s hard to believe he’s only a freshman as he joins the Gators this summer.
Longtime Hampton High School coach Mike Smith offers a similar immediate reaction when asked over the phone what stood out most about Conliffe during their time together.
“Size,” Smith says with a laugh. “When he blocked a door entrance by walking in, it made it pretty noticeable.”
So yes, it’s easy to see Conliffe — ranked a 4-star recruit and the No. 18 defensive tackle nationally in this class, according to the 247Sports composite — fitting in at the SEC level and emerging as an asset for the Gators.
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The key, his former coach says, is getting him to fully utilize those physical abilities — or perhaps the more appropriate term is powers.
Among Conliffe’s interests off the field is a fondness for superheroes, which he honed in on during what he calls his “toy box days.” His grandfather used to play him the classic superhero movies, and Conliffe would further indulge his creative interests with the morning cartoons every Saturday while later developing an appreciation for Japanese anime as well.
All of this is to explain the origins of Elijah Prime — like the Transformers’ Optimus Prime — which is the nickname that has stuck with the defensive tackle since his freshman year of high school.
“It tickles me because we can be out somewhere and you’ll hear them say, ‘Hey Prime.’ And then they’ll talk to me, ‘Hey Prime’s mom.’ It’s so funny,” says Conliffe’s mother Kachelle Brown.
True to the theme, Conliffe says he has two very different sides to his personality — on and off the field.
“So you got Elijah Conliffe, the normal me. And you’ve got Elijah Prime. I think there’s two different [sides],” he says. “Elijah Conliffe is a more calmer person. I’d say Prime is more of an aggressive person, a little more violent.”
Both sides of his personality have been key in his path to this point. Elijah Conliffe, left, with his younger brother Isaac. (Photos courtesy of Kachelle Brown) No distractions It’s an all-too-common story line for many top high school football prospects who grow up close to potential bad influences or around classmates on divergent paths.Before moving to Hampton, Conliffe, his mother and his brother Isaac, who is younger by two years, lived in an area of Portsmouth, Va., that could be a little dangerous.“I’ve seen a couple of my friends pass away and [get] locked up. I didn’t want to see that happen for myself. I know […]