Mellette celebrates after being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens
He anxiously watched as 237 other names flashed across the screen. The tension in the room was obvious. Free agency seemed inevitable. But at 6:45 Saturday evening, "Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon" finally appeared as the 238th selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
"It was pandemonium, louder than some Elon football games," Mellette said, describing the scene at his draft day party, as family, teammates and friends celebrated his anointment to professional football.
After 31 teams passed on Mellette for six rounds, the Baltimore Ravens, defending Super Bowl Champions, seized the opportunity in the seventh and final round of the draft. He becomes the first Elon football player to be drafted since 2007.
"I was getting anxious, getting down on myself, feeling disrespected," Mellette said when asked what was going through his mind while waiting for his name to be called. "If I didn't get drafted, I'd feel like all the work I had done at Elon would be for nothing. I really didn"t want to be a free agent."
But when his cell phone rang, and the Ravens general manager was on the other end, feelings of rejection were washed away by waves of relief.
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"I got the call from [General Manager] Ozzie Newsome, and he was like 'How would you like to be a Raven?'" Mellette said. "I was like, 'Stop playing with me man.'"
Newsome assured the young wide receiver that the Ravens were serious about selecting him, and now the hardest part of the journey begins--making a National Football League team.
On Thursday, he will report for Ravens mini-camp, where the competition will begin against other rookies, young players and seasoned veterans for a spot on the team's 53-man roster.
"It will be nice to be catching balls from a $120 million quarterback," Mellette said, referencing Joe Flacco, who was named Super Bowl MVP in February and signed a record-setting contract in the offseason.
A new quarterback won't be the only change for Mellette in the NFL. The game moves faster, the hits are harder and the crowds roar louder than in the Southern Conference. Rhodes Stadium, where Mellette played his college home games, has a capacity of 13,100 fans. The Ravens' home, M & T Bank Stadium, holds more than 71,000. It's easier to escape coverage against the Appalachian State Mountaineers than the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots.
Those closest to Mellette, though, are confident that he slots is ready for the next level, including Elon wide receivers coach Kevin Downing.
"I definitely think he has the talent to play on a Sunday. No doubt about it," Downing said. "He's a big kid that runs well and catches the ball well."
Aaron's uncle, Bishop Charles Mellette, believes God has a plan for his nephew.
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"The highest paid quarterback in the league, the World Champions, and their top receiver just left. God is setting the stage for Aaron to succeed," he told his congregation at Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, N.C, Mellette's hometown.
But to achieve success, Mellette will need remember his roots--notably his faith and family.
Sanford isn't the kind of place that lets you forget your roots. The small North Carolina town is home to humble, hard working people that know how to make you feel welcome. At the beginning of his sermon Sunday morning, Bishop Mellette instructed his congregation to hug "at least seven or eight people and say good morning--especially the visitors!" It isn't long until a newcomer is considered "part of the family."
Family is important to the Mellettes, and thats why they are thrilled that Aaron is headed to Baltimore.
"I don't think there is a better team in professional football for Aaron to learn from," Bishop Mellette said. "The Baltimore Ravens have proven throughout the playoffs, and through the Super Bowl, that they know how to be a family."
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The Mellettes have roots in Baltimore, and still have friends and family in the area.
"I'm telling you, the Ravens' ticket sales are going up because they chose Aaron Mellette, because our family is going to be there!" Bishop Mellette promised.
And will Aaron Mellette be on the field September 5 against the Denver Broncos, when the Ravens kick off there 2013 campaign as defending champions?
"That's what we pray for," Bishop Mellette said. "If Aaron goes to Baltimore and works hard, we know that he can contribute to that organization"