Baltimore Ravens

As his father battles prostate cancer, Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin keeps fighting

Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin walks off the field with teammates after practice Wednesday.

When he lines up in press coverage, Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin tucks in his elbows tightly and balls his hands into fists. It's a style of play built around invading wide receivers' territory at the line of scrimage.

Although inexperienced, with just four career appearances and three starts this season, the 6-foot-3, 193-pound Melvin doesn't lack for aggressiveness. He plays with a bold, hard-hitting approach despite a lack of bulk, refusing to play it safe and concede ground to receivers. His lanky build and fierce attitude have drawn comparisons by teammates to those of former Ravens cornerback Cary Williams.


It's a combative manner Melvin can trace back to his father's own fiery style: As Rashaan Melvin's unexpected success story continues with him slated to start again in Saturday's AFC divisional-round playoff game Saturday against the top-seeded New England Patriots, James Melvin continues to undergo treatment for prostate cancer.

"He's fighting. He's a fighter," Rashaan Melvin said of James Melvin. "Some days, he's up. Some days, he's down, but he's always fighting. He's definitely proud. He watches all my games. No matter how he's feeling, he makes the time."


It never has been easy for the younger Melvin, a former walk-on at Northern Illinois who eventually earned a scholarship. He went undrafted before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and Miami this season. The Ravens signed him to their active roster off the Dolphins' practice squad in November.

"Rashaan has earned everything he's gotten. He earned that scholarship," James Melvin said in a telephone interview. "Now the Ravens have given him an opportunity, and he's proving himself again.

"He's a wonderful young man. He's been very disciplined. He's come a long way. We're very proud of him."

The 25-year-old became a starter only after season-ending injuries to cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson and Danny Gorrer, but he has held up well. Melvin recorded 17 tackles in the regular season, with one pass defended and a forced fumble.

During his first career start, against the Houston Texans, Melvin had eight tackles. Other than a long sideline reception he allowed to veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson, he didn't struggle. Melvin has performed well enough that even Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took notice.

"Melvin's done a great job," Brady said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He's really settled down in that position."

During a 30-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Saturday's wild-card game, Melvin had seven tackles. He briefly was knocked out of the game after a big hit on running back Ben Tate that drew a personal foul, and went to the locker room before being cleared under the NFL's concussion-testing protocol.

"No doubt, my style, my confidence makes me want to be up in guys' faces," Melvin said. "I'm not afraid to get beat. That's part of the game. You win some and lose some. You got to be sure you win more than you lose. At the end of the day, you play with confidence and technique and the best of your ability."


Although Melvin still is learning on the job, he has impressed the Ravens coaching staff with his confidence and eagerness to learn.

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, on one of Melvin's first plays for the Ravens, he blitzed and recorded a tackle for a loss. He also nearly intercepted a pass.

"He's handled it extremely well, with not a lot of playing experience," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said of Melvin, who has allowed just 10 receptions for 106 yards and no touchdowns while being targeted 22 times. "It helps when you have success early. If you go out and the first thing you do as a defensive back is give up a touchdown, that's not exactly the way you want to start. The good thing about Melvin was, we got off to a good start with him, put him in some positions, and he did a great job with them and he had some success.

"That built up confidence, and he felt good about himself. He knew the other guys around him felt good about him and were confident in him. That's half of playing defensive back, is really having confidence in yourself. He's done a tremendous job for us."

As the injuries mounted in the secondary, Ravens coach John Harbaugh told Melvin it was his time.

"Coach Harbaugh told me, 'You're up,' " Melvin said. "He didn't have to say nothing more. I already understand what that meant: Be ready, it's your time. I don't want to be the type of guy who doesn't take advantage of an opportunity. I've never been that type of guy.


"I'm just extremely blessed to be in the situation I'm in. This is something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid. For my dreams to come true like this, it's a blessing to me."

Determination isn't a new trait for Melvin. Growing up in Waukegan, Ill., with five sisters and two brothers, Melvin was lightly recruited despite catching 58 passes for 585 yards and finishing with 70 tackles, eight interceptions and three defensive touchdowns as a high school senior.

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Declining scholarship offers from Division II colleges, Melvin enrolled at Northern Illinois. It took him two years to earn a scholarship. He finished with 172 career tackles, five interceptions and 35 passes defended, the second most in school history.

"You grow with experience," Melvin said. "I was a good athlete back in school, but I wasn't highly recruited. I decided to walk on at NIU because I felt I could play at that level. It all panned out. I earned the scholarship and had a successful career.

"I take a lot of pride in my work ethic. That's what separates me from everybody else. I love the grind. I use my arms, my length, my speed. You need bigger cornerbacks, so my size helps me out a lot."

When Melvin lines up Saturday against a Patriots receiving corps that includes Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, his father can't wait to watch.


"I'm a very proud dad," said James Melvin, who'll be watching from his living room in Waukegan. "I've never put any pressure on him. I just want him to have fun, and that's what he's doing. I'm doing the best I can with everything, but it definitely makes me feel good to watch him play."