McKelvin top NFL prospect

Once over­looked, Troy’s McKelvin rises above the rest

The Covington News - - Sports - By John Zenor

MONT­GOMERY, Ala. — Leodis­McKelvin has that un­shak­able cor­ner­back’s con­fi­dence.

When the big­time col­leges passed on sign­ing him out of high school, he fig­ured he’d just prove them wrong. Those two years as a backup for Troy didn’t faze him ei­ther.

“I al­ready had the con­fi­dence,” McKelvin said. “It was just a mo­ment thing. I had to sit be­hind some se­niors. I knew I had to wait and just get bet­ter and bet­ter ev­ery year. When I got my chance to start at cor­ner, I el­e­vated my abil­i­ties to an­other level.”

Now, he’s poised to take them to the next level. McKelvin is one of the top-rated de­fen­sive play­ers in next week­end’s NFL draft, a pro­jected Top 10 pick and the latest Troy de­fender to be­come a cov­eted pro com­mod­ity.

De­fen­sive end Osi Umenyiora helped the New York Gi­ants win a Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship, and he and Dal­las Cow­boys line­backer DeMar­cus Ware both made the Pro Bowl.

“That gives you a lot of cred­i­bil­ity,” McKelvin said.

The speedy 5-foot-11, 186pounder also has plenty of cred­i­bil­ity as a re­turn man. He led the na­tion with three punt re­turns for a touch­down as a se­nior — giv­ing him eight for his ca­reer, one shy of the NCAA record — av­er­ag­ing

18.3 yards per re­turn.

McKelvin, who was a late qual­i­fier aca­dem­i­cally, re­ceived some in­ter­est from big-name schools out of high school in Way­cross, Ga. Their schol­ar­ship of­fers never came.

“Peo­ple over­looked me,” he said. “I guess I was their backup plan if they didn’t get the guy they wanted. I proved them wrong. I had a chip on my shoul­der.”

McKelvin made an im­pact at Troy as a fresh­man re­turn man, but split time with vet­eran cor­ners and didn’t start a game on de­fense un­til his ju­nior sea­son.

“My ju­nior year I got my name out there as a cor­ner­back,” he said. “I was al­ready a dy­namic re­turn man. My se­nior year I just put both of them to­gether and ev­ery­thing came out how I wanted.”

The high-profile schools might have over­looked him, but McKelvin got plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to play against teams like Ne­braska and Florida State and re­ceivers like Ge­or­gia Tech All-Amer­i­can Calvin John­son.

McKelvin can still re­cite John­son’s num­bers from their meet­ing in 2006: two catches for 9 yards. The cur­rent NFL re­ceiver was slowed by an in­jury sus­tained in the sec­ond quar­ter, but the matchup re­sults are still a point of pride for McKelvin.

“He went 2-for-9,” he said. “You tell me how he did. He played the whole game and went 2-for-9. I did a great job.”

Troy sec­ondary coach Jeremy Row­ell said the NFL in­ter­est in McKelvin grew af­ter his per­for­mance against Oklahoma State last sea­son. He scored on a 74-yard punt re­turn, broke up three passes, made seven tack­les and forced a fum­ble in the Tro­jans’ up­set win over the Big 12 Con­fer­ence team.

Row­ell said McKelvin has a high ceil­ing in the NFL.

“He has a great fu­ture in front of him and a great up­side,” he said. “As far as raw abil­ity, hips, foot speed — all the things you look for out of a cor­ner — he’s just gifted with all of it.

“You throw in the re­turn abil­ity that goes with it ... He has a great knack for that, which makes him a very hot com­mod­ity.”

With his typ­i­cal con­fi­dence, McKelvin ex­pects which­ever team drafts him to uti­lize both skills.

“You get an ex­cel­lent cor­ner and you get one of the top re­turn men in col­lege foot­ball his­tory,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you use me at both?”

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