It's early, but the next Charlie Ward might be growing up at Severn School.
Already a name in basketball despite never having played a varsity game, freshman Dennard Melton is tearing it up on the football field for the Admirals.
Melton, who spent his elementary school years as a local basketball phenom, is playing football for the first time in his life, and the results have been astounding.
"He's a natural," said coach Jim Doyle.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Melton has scored nine touchdowns (five rushing) and intercepted five passes for the 3-1 Admirals. He has played quarterback, running back, flanker, kick returner and defensive back.
"People will probably laugh when I say this, if they've seen Dennard play basketball, but basketball may not be his best sport," said Doyle.
"I see him as a two-sport athlete like Charlie Ward was at Florida State. He can be that good if he continues to progress and football might be his best sport. He's the best I've seen at this age ."
Melton is well-known in basketball circles all over the metro area. He was recruited by nationally acclaimed DeMatha and Mount St. Joseph but chose Severn, where he is an "A" student.
Melton received the blessings of Severn basketball coach Wayne Fowler to give football a try.
"I've always watched it on TV and a lot of the players kept telling me to come out," said Melton, who resides in Southgate.
Melton had been working out in the weight room with Severn's football players at the end of his eighth-grade year and immediately caught Doyle's attention.
"He did some things like throwing the football 50 yards as an eighth-grader [he now throws it 60 to 65], running 4.7 in the 40, and showing natural ability that I asked him to give football a try," said Doyle.
"Wayne encouraged him to do so. His mom [Evonne] was a bit apprehensive at first, worrying about injuries, but everything's OK now."
Melton has steadily improved from his debut, a 29-11 victory over Bullis Prep in which he intercepted two passes, to last Saturday's 49-20 triumph over Calvert Hall. He scored four touchdowns, passed for one and amassed 353 all-purpose yards.
His option pass to Todd McManus covered 75 yards, and he caught a 70-yarder from Willis Wu while rushing for 92 yards and scoring twice. He also ran back a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, had another return of 25 yards, blocked a punt and ran it 20 yards to set up a score and picked off his fifth interception.
That game came on the heels of his four-touchdown performance (two rushing, 87-yard kickoff return and a blocked punt in the end zone) in a wild 39-30 loss to archrival St. Mary's.
"He proved in that game that he won't get intimidated despite being only a freshman," said Doyle. "He was grabbed and thrown to the ground with the St. Mary's players taunting him."
Doyle is confident the Admirals can keep Melton around for four years.
"DeMatha is still working on him, and I don't think they know he can play football, too. But he loves it here and we love him. We're going to do everything we can for him in the future," he said.
When an athlete has the kind of ability Melton has, scouts won't miss him, no matter where he goes to school.
"I'm here to stay," said Melton.