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A 1911 connection: Lions’ safety Jalen Elliott talks mentorship from Ryan Clark and fraternity

Detroit Lions safety Jalen Elliott walked into Wednesday’s post-practice media session with a huge smile on his face. Now, a betting man would say it’s due to recent events in his career. 

For their last two games, the Lions called Elliott up from the practice squad temporarily. And as of Monday, they’ve signed him to the 53-man active roster. 

While Elliott stood at the podium, ready to field questions from the media, he wore something else besides the big grin on his face. On his head, he had a purple Nike headwrap/headband. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Because after all, the Lions’ team colors are Honolulu Blue & Silver.

For those familiar with Elliott’s background, though, the color choice for the headgear was clear. He was paying homage to “Da Bruhz.” 

And for the unfamiliar, “Da Bruhz” (or Que/Que-Dog) is a nickname for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., a Black Greek-lettered Organization (BGLO) of which Elliott is a member.

As Elliott began to field questions from the media, no one asked him what was up with the headgear. And quite frankly, it wasn’t a reason to. It’s not a football question nor that big of a deal. 

However, Elliott mentioned something interesting during the session. And that cleared the way to address the headband indirectly. 

He fielded a question about the Lions’ team reporter Mike O’Hara about the game experience he’s gaining and his process of looking at tapes of his play. And it was at that moment when Elliott said that his mentor is someone who does that for him. 

That mentor is former NFL safety Ryan Clark.

“He grades my film. He’ll call me and say, ‘Hey, you slipped underneath this block. You should’ve stayed outside.’ He’ll grill me,” said Elliott. “A lot of work that I’ve put in, he’s helped me with, so I’m so thankful for him.”

Elliott expounded on their relationship after a follow-up question. It started while Elliott was at Notre Dame.

“My junior year in college, I actually reached out to him,” said Elliott. “And I was just like, ‘Hey man, if you have an extra week before the season starts, I would love to come out there and work out with you,’ and his story was pretty similar to mine. You know, being undrafted, kinda starting on the practice squad.”

“So we instantly connected, and like I said, that’s my big bro.”

Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Jalen Elliott (21) poses with the winners trophy after defeating the Iowa State Cyclones at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As football enthusiasts know, Clark is a former Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Lions face on Sunday.

While Ryan Clark and Jalen Elliott share the commonality of being undrafted defensive backs, they have something else in common.

Ryan Clark is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., a BGLO like Elliott’s fraternity––both of which established themselves in 1911. Their organizations are two of the nine fraternities and sororities that make up “The Divine 9”, the National Pan-Hellenic Council. 

As mentioned above, both Elliott and Clark’s fraternities share the same founding year. Because of that, members of both organizations, who generally work together, will trade playful jokes and insults.

“I always tell him, right year, wrong color,” said Elliott. 

Elliott’s fraternity colors are Purple and Gold––hence the headband, while Clark’s are crimson and cream. 

Elliott and Clark’s relationship is a big deal and a great example of what BGLOs are genuinely about: helping one another, regardless of the organization, mentorship, and servicing the community. 

And the BGLO connection in the NFL for Elliott doesn’t stop there.

“[Lions safety] C.J. Moore is also a Que as well, so he welcomed me with open arms as soon as I got here last year,” Elliott told Woodward Sports. “And that was good to have. Obviously, you know, the brotherhood is way bigger than football.”

“In every city you go, every team you play, it’s likely to be some [Black] Greek on the team or a bruh [Que] on the team that you can meet. And it’s been great to see it around the league.”

As Elliott prepares for the Steelers this Sunday, he didn’t shy away from saying he’ll throw up “da hooks,” his fraternity’s hand gesture if he makes a big play. 

“Me and C.J. [Moore] always talk about it, man. We did it in the first game on special teams,” said Elliott. “It’s a part of the celebration. You gotta throw the hooks up for sure.”

The cardinal principles of Omega Psi Phi are Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift. By now, it’s not a secret the type of locker room Dan Campbell wants. Having a player like Jalen Elliott (and C.J. Moore) on the team with these values can only be a plus. 

Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.

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