COLUMBUS — Mitchell Melton is a Buckeye, and his family is back home in Ohio.
That means being only an hour drive from his parents and the occasional opportunity to mow his grandpa’s grass on a hot summer day in Greene County.
“We had a projects to do around his house, I think actually like a month ago,” Melton said Thursday with a smile. “I had to come around and mow his lawn with my dad and just help him out.”
It turns out everyone moving from Maryland to Ohio has afforded Melton a chance to learn more about his dad, too.
“He’s a more of a legend than I thought,” Mitchell said of his father, Jeff, who was a 6-foot-2, 205-pound running back at Cedarville High School in the early 1980s before playing at Miami University.
Jeff Melton made the Dayton Daily News All-Area team for small schools in 1982 when he ran for 1,600 yards and scored 18 touchdowns for the Indians, who went 9-0-1.
“I was at a pizza spot and people came up to me saying, ‘Are you Jeff Melton’s son? You look just look like him.’ It’s crazy,” the younger Melton said with a laugh.
The legend of Mitchell Melton is yet to take shape, but he is looking forward to getting a chance to show what he can do this fall after missing last season with a knee injury suffered in the 2022 spring game.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, the younger Melton is in the mix for playing time at defensive end, a position he grew into after being a four-star linebacker prospect at Good Counsel High School in Silver Springs, Md.
“He looks good,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “He’s good. He’s just got to watch his reps and keep it going, but I think he’s doing some good things right now. He’s really working hard.”
Johnson and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles have both praised his natural knack for rushing the passer, but Melton also might be utilized in a hybrid role known as the “Jack.”
“I played linebacker in high school, but there were certain times where they put me down on the line and just told me to go get the quarterback,” Melton said. “It’s kind of the same thing here.”
How much the hybrid position — which could also feature Alter grad C.J. Hicks — is utilized this fall remains to be seen, but reserve defensive end is a critical role in the Ohio State defense because Johnson has always favored substituting heavily to keep his players fresh.
While J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer figure to be the starters at end, Kenyatta Jackson, Caden Curry and Melton should factor heavily into the mix as well.
Melton is looking forward to contributing any way he can for the team he grew up rooting for in Maryland.
“I think during the recruiting process in high school, it was kind of hard to look anywhere else,” he said before recalling watching Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller star at quarterback for the Buckeyes. “When they gave me that offer in my junior year, I was kind of dead set on coming here.
“Especially in 2014 when they won it all, I remember just wanting to be that and embody that culture. Now I’m here and this is definitely a dream come true.”
He signed with Ohio State in December 2019. That was two years before Knowles was hired as the defensive coordinator, but Melton indicated he likes the potential fit his scheme.
“When you come into this place, you have expectations, but I think when coach Knowles came to me with that position, I saw myself there,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. I just keep working and biding my time.
“Grateful is probably a better word, but, yeah, I feel great. I’d say it’s the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here.”
Saturday, Sept. 2
Ohio State at Indiana, 3:30 p.m., CBS, 1410