With cameras capturing the moment for ESPNU, the senior Oxford wide receiver and defensive back turned to show everyone 2-year-old Aidan Elston, wearing an oversized Ole Miss hat.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Trae said after Wednesday’s mass signing ceremony in Oxford’s gymnasium. “He’s like my cousin, but we take care of him a lot.
“One day, he was pulling my hats off, so we thought of a little skit.”
While announcing his college choice became child’s play, the process that got Elston there was anything but. Take it from the coach who advised him.
“The last two weeks, I tell you, I could write a book over that,” Oxford’s John Grass said. “His process, it’s been a straining process.”
The most stressful part came after Elston narrowed his finalists to Ole Miss, LSU and Oklahoma State. He compressed most of his recruiting activity to the final two weeks.
Ole Miss came into the picture late, Elston said, after the school hired new head coach Hugh Freeze in December.
Also, Elston wants to play offense, and he wants to play early.
Still, he nearly went for the LSU path of playing cornerback and possibly gray-shirting. In fact, he said he quietly committed to LSU on Monday, a day after he returned from a campus visit there.
At LSU, he could have made it a tandem with Oxford teammate Kwon Alexander, who signed with the Tigers on Wednesday.
Elston also could have played cornerback for the school that has produced Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu in recent years.
Grass said Wednesday that cornerback is Elston’s most likely path to the NFL, but doing it at LSU brought caveats.
For starters, LSU’s near-full class headed into signing day meant the Tigers could knock up against the SEC’s new 25-signee limit. Elston might have to wait to enroll and count against the 2013 class.
“The SEC, I’m telling you, I didn’t realize how much it was going to affect recruiting with them not going over 25,” Grass said. “Everybody comes down to this final day of, how many (letters of intent) do I send out? Who is firm committed? What have I got?
“They get 26, 27 kids, and they’ve got to gray-shirt somebody, and I think that’s Trae’s main thing is he wanted to go a program that’s good and he felt at home and he can play early.”
Elston also wanted the chance to play a role on offense, a chance that Ole Miss and Oklahoma State offered him.
“They said I’ve got ball skills and all of that,” Elston said. “They just want to see where I’m at in fall camp.
“LSU recruits good DBs, but I think I have the talent where I can get the ball in my hands and score, so I’m glad I can do that.”
Elston had a lot to mull, and it was a long 48 hours between his Monday commitment to LSU and Wednesday morning’s signing ceremony. He said he switched Tuesday night.
“Something told me I needed to go to Ole Miss, so I changed to Ole Miss,” he said. “I prayed about it, and I talked to my parents about it, and it was the right choice.”
Freeze came to Ole Miss from Arkansas State, where he presided over a hybrid spread offense, similar to the one his replacement, Gus Malzahn, ran as Auburn’s offensive coordinator. Grass sees a place in such a system for Elston.
“In their offense, with what Coach Freeze does, they can package some stuff with him where he doesn’t have to play offense all the time,” Grass said. “He could have a couple of packages on offense that he can learn and play, and Trae’s football IQ is very high. He picks up on things well, and he’s a film guy.
“I think he’ll be fine on both sides.”
For now, at least, Elston is done playing both sides of the argument.
“I’m just proud for him, and he can sleep well tonight with a decision made and move on,” Grass said. “He’s going to be a great player wherever he went, and I think Ole Miss is getting a steal with him.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.