Before Jerry Kill arrived at Northern Illinois, Rashaan Melvin was on his way to Division II Concordia-Minnesota.
Five years later, Melvin played in an Orange Bowl and became an NFL prospect.
Melvin, a productive 6-foot-2 cornerback, had a pre-draft visit with the Green Bay Packers. If he’s not drafted late on Saturday, he’ll be one of the hotter free agents on the market.
“It was great,” Melvin told Packer Report this week. “The coaching staff was great, the facilities were great. There’s nothing like Lambeau Field, just the tradition of football. It made me realize that, man, this is something that I really want to do. Seeing Lambeau Field and the Hall of Fame and the players and Vince Lombardi trophies, it was great. That’s what we play for is to win championships.”
When Kill took over, he offered Melvin preferred walk-on status. In other words, as Melvin recalled the conversation: “‘Work hard and come in and play with a chip on your shoulder and I’ll give you a scholarship.’”
Melvin redshirted in 2008 and played in two games in 2009. In Spring 2010, he was given a coveted scholarship, and he wound up playing in 14 games with two starts as a sophomore.
He broke into the starting lineup as a junior, tying for the team lead with three interceptions and leading the way with nine passes defensed. That set the stage for a monster senior season as the Huskies were the BCS-busters. In starting 12 games (he missed two due to injury), Melvin had one interception and set a school record with 17 passes defensed.
In the Orange Bowl, he tallied 10 tackles, including 1.5 for losses, and forced a fumble despite sustaining a torn labrum.
Melvin gained momentum leading up the draft by running a 4.42 with a 38-inch vertical at his pro day. Along with the measurables, teams like his “football IQ” and his ability to learn a playbook and game plan quickly.
“I kind of modeled my game after Charles Woodson because of his football instincts, his playmaking skills and his versatility,” he said. “He can play inside or outside, and he understands the game. Plus, he’s 6-1 and 200 pounds, so he kind of reminds me of myself with the same body type. There’s no point in modeling your game after somebody who’s shorter than you because they don’t move the way you move.”
After starting his career as a walk-on, Melvin said being in this position was a “blessing.”
“It’s going to be emotional” to be drafted or signed, he said. “I’m going to have my family around and some of my friends. I’m going to sit back and relax and take it all in, and go from there.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.