Even before the NFL, Mellette made us proud

May. 01, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

During the years he was giving nightmares to safeties and cornerbacks at Rhodes Stadium on the campus of Elon University, and on other gridirons around the Southern Conference, one of the most common themes of Aaron Mellette’s Saturdays — other than big plays and making the opposition’s secondary look elementary — was the Sanford native’s desire to, in his oft-repeated phraseology, “make Sanford proud.”

Mellette made Sanford proud long before this past Saturday. His athletic career at Southern Lee High School was more than notable, starring in basketball and starting to play football a little late in life (his sophomore year). His achievements at Elon — including multiple All-American selections and statistical accomplishments that put him amongst the elite in conference history — were outstanding. But anyone who knows Mellette, or has spent time around him, recognizes his character, his commitment, and the humble spirit which led him to focus on improving as a person and a student-athlete, not leveraging his stardom for selfish gain.

On Saturday, though, he did gain — and so did the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens, who chose Mellette in the seventh round of the NFL draft. Typical of Mellette, his post-draft comments included mention of his hometown and his continued to desire to bring glory to it by being of value to the team which will give him a shot at pro football.

Regardless of what happens from here, Mellette has already put Sanford on the map. And he made us all proud again when Baltimore selected him.

He’s worked hard to prove himself, but as we all know, that work takes on a whole new level in the NFL. He’ll join nine other Ravens draft picks (Mellette was the only receiver they selected), plus any free agents the team happens to pick up, and will go into training camp (after a series of three organized team activities before a mandatory team mini-camp June 11-13) with a legitimate chance to make the team, but as a longshot for NFL stardom — as with any rookie. But his size (he’s 6-foot-2), his speed (his 40-yard dash time of 4.45 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine was impressive) and his skill — he could turn a poorly-thrown pass into a big gain, and most well-thrown passes to him gave Elon a scoring opportunity — give him the physical gifts he’ll need to succeed. The other, less-tangible gifts? Mellette possesses them in abundance.

Some observers were surprised Mellette wasn’t picked sooner; one said that as the 238th overall pick, he was “an absolute steal” for the Ravens. When his college career ended last fall, he was first or second in a long list of Elon and Southern Conference career receiving records, and became the first Elon player to go to the Senior Bowl; he was the first Elon player drafted since linebacker Chad Nkang was chosen by Jacksonville in the seventh round of the 2007 draft.

Nkang’s NFL career didn’t amount to much, but our bet would be that Mellette will make an entirely different mark. He’s worked hard to put himself in a position to flourish in pro football.

Congratulations, Aaron. We look forward to seeing you Sundays come this fall.