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Penn alumnus Mike Elko was appointed as the new football head coach for Texas A&M (Photo by Laura Dwyer/DP File Photo).

On Monday, Texas A&M appointed Penn alumnus Mike Elko as the football program’s new head coach and praised him as being “one of the best defensive minds in the country.” Elko, coming off of two consecutive seasons coaching Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference, is now ready to try his hand at college football’s grandest stage: the SEC.

Growing up in New Jersey, Elko was involved in sports from a young age. In high school, he achieved success on the football field on both offense and defense. At Penn, Elko grew into the safety role and solidified himself as one of the Ivy League’s best defensive backs as the Quakers’ secondary. As a senior in 1998, Elko — under the tutelage of former Penn coach Al Bagnoli — helped the team secure an Ivy League Championship.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history, Elko decided to embark on a career in coaching. He spent three seasons as a defensive assistant and safeties coach under Dave Clawson, building experience at a variety of programs, including Fordham and Wake Forest. In 2016, Elko was named defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, where he remained for one season, during a time when the Fighting Irish’s defense ranked in the top half nationally across four primary statistical categories.

In 2018, Elko was rewarded by being named the defensive coordinator and safeties coach of Texas A&M. Over the course of four seasons, he helped the Aggies reach four back-to-back bowl games and was named a semifinalist for the annual Frank Broyles Award for assistant coaches in college football. By this point, Elko’s brand of defense had gained a reputation for its strong pass prevention and red zone efficiency.

The time eventually came for Elko to make the final step in the coaching hierarchy. At the end of 2021, he was named as the official head coach of Duke's football program. His first year at the reigns culminated in nine regular season wins, including one in the Military Bowl against UCF. Elko was given the ACC Coach of the Year honor that season. In 2022, Duke finished with a 9-4 record.

Now, Elko finds himself back in the SEC, this time with even more responsibility and freedom to guide the Texas A&M program. The Aggies finished this season with a 7-5 record and were right around the middle of the pack in their conference. Their season ended with a painful loss against rivals LSU, prompting them to quickly pursue Elko before the transfer portal opens and the early signing period for high school recruits begins.

Elko’s recent appointment marks his career’s biggest achievement. With this opportunity secured, the former Quaker now has a lot in store in terms of preparation for next season.