Matt Elam was a merchant of pain on the field for Florida in 2012, and his stellar play has earned him one of college football's highest honors, a spot on the Associated Press' All-America team.
Elam was named one of two safeties on the AP All-America first team on Tuesday, joining Philip Thomas of Fresno State at the position. He is the only Gators player selected to the first team, the first Florida player named an AP All-America first team selection since punter Chas Henry in 2010, and the first defensive player and defensive back picked for the first team since Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden were named first-team All-Americans in 2009.
Elam led Florida in solo tackles with 49 and interceptions with four, and was second to Josh Evans in tackles. Elam also shined especially bright in two of Florida's biggest games: He had seven solo tackles and a critical forced fumble against LSU, and seven solo tackles and an interception against Florida State.
Elam, a junior, reportedly has put in paperwork to investigate his NFL Draft stock, but could still return to Florida for his senior season. If he does, and makes a second consecutive All-America first team, he will be the first Gator since Spikes, who earned consecutive honors in 2008 and 2009, and the first Florida defensive back since Louis Oliver, who was a first-team All-American in 1987 and 1988, to do so.
No Gators were named to the AP's All-America second team, but defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, kicker Caleb Sturgis, and punter Kyle Christy were all named to the All-America third team. Floyd is the first Florida defensive tackle named to an all-classes All-America team since Ed Chester was named a second-team All-American in 1998. (Ray McDonald and Omar Hunter were named to freshman All-America teams in 2003 and 2009, respectively.)