On the team’s first offensive play in the season-opener, Gilroy High junior Chimezie Elias knew things would be vastly different this year compared to the Covid spring season in March and April.
“I lined up, ran the first route and knew I was going to have a great game,” he said.
Elias’ hunch was prescient, as he finished with one of the best games by a receiver from the south Santa Clara County and San Benito County region in recent memory. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder finished with 13 receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns, including one for 63 yards.
The game showcased Elias’ playmaking abilities and talent. Even though the Mustangs are 0-2 entering their Pacific Coast League Mission Division opener at PaPajaro Valley, Elias feels the program is headed in the right direction under coach Tim Pierleoni.
“I feel like the team has really adjusted to the new coach and new system that was put in,” he said. “We’re still learning it and getting better everyday.”
Elias spent the short off-season working diligently on his craft, focusing on route running, hand-eye coordination and footwork drills. He competed in the Jenkins Elite High School Training Camp in Highlands Ranch in Colorado, a three-day affair that prepared him to have a breakout 2021 season.
“It was a great environment,” he said. “Very competitive, great athletes and I’m just glad I got invited there.”
Receivers often were put into 1-on-1 situations with defensive backs under the eye of position coaches. Elias said he took the feedback to heart, knowing it would help him improve his skills.
“The head receiver coach would always tell me what I could do better,” he said. “He talked mainly about my releases and how I could do that better along with selling routes and finishing routes. He said I was finishing plays well and doing a good job of catching balls, and that I was a very fast kid who could run and had a very fluid hip motion.”
Elias has been effective in getting open this season by being precise on his routes. He’s also been spectacular at times after the catch, and he’s a physical receiver who invites contact. It’s no wonder Tennessee Titans receiver Julio Jones is by far his favorite NFL player.
“He’s great at everything, has great hands and is fast,” Elias said. “I want to be great; I want to be the greatest receiver in the NFL.”
Elias doesn’t turn 16 until Nov. 11 and has packed on 30 pounds to his frame since the beginning of his freshman year. Elias credits his first coach, Rob Salazar, for continually motivating him to be his best. Salazar attends every one of Elias’ games and the two always talk before kickoff.
“He settles me down, tells me how far I’ve come and that I just have to go out there and perform,” Elias said. “He pushes me everyday in practice and makes me work hard so I can get better.”
Elias knew he wanted to play football from an early age. However, his parents didn’t let him play until he was 10 for a youth team.
“I convinced my parents to sign me up,” he said. “I kept begging and begging until they finally let me.”
In Nigerian, Chimezie means “God will lead my path.” He said his Christain faith is central to who he is and how he lives.
“I put my faith in God and trust him with everything,” Elias said.