May 10, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Tyler Melton is learning to love the color red.
That’s not easy to do for a Georgia Tech alumnus, but is the part of the job description for the Houston, Texas, native, who played at wide receiver for the Yellow Jackets from 2008 through 2011, and is now district sales manager for Coca Cola.
“My healthy hatred for the red is now a healthy hatred for the blue. I’ve embraced my red side but I still have a lot of hate in my heart for Georgia as well,” said Melton, who is responsible for six account managers in a territory that stretches from Covington and Conyers all the way to Macon, with a laugh. “I deal with Georgia guys all the time. Some of my account managers that work for me are Georgia fans so we give each other a tough time, but it’s all in love. I’ll bleed gold until the day I die.”
He gave plenty of blood and sweat in his four years on The Flats. A two-sport star at Houston’s Langham Creek High School (football and basketball), earning two all-district selections and a second-team all-state nod in football, Melton immediately became an important part of Paul Johnson’s inaugural Yellow Jackets team in 2008.
Melton took the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium on August 28, 2008, seeing time on offense, as one of three receivers, joining Demaryius Thomas and Greg Smith — he’d make his first career reception, a five-yard completion from Joshua Nesbitt on third and 3 on Tech’s first series of the third quarter — and fielding three punts (all fair-caught) in Tech’s 41-14 thrashing of Jacksonville State.
While the numbers weren’t necessarily history-making, Melton’s presence was, as he became was the first true freshman in the Paul Johnson era to start a season opener and is still the only one to do so.
“I was fortunate to be able to start at punt return, kick return and receiver as a true freshman,” said Melton, who finished the year with five catches for 53 yards (a 10.6 yards per catch average), 15 punt returns for 86 yards (5.7 yards per return), and four kickoff returns for 72 yards (18 ypr). “Just the fact that the coaches trusted me that much in those crucial positions meant a ton to me in terms of reinforcing my worth as a football player. That’s definitely something I can hang my hat on.”
Melton would play 45 games in his career, finishing with 33 catches for 461 yards (14.0 ypc) and a touchdown — he’d also make one rushing attempt (good for four yards), three tackles (all solos), and would even throw a pass (an incompletion). He remembers the touchdown as if it was yesterday.
“It was `Breeze-58-Go,’ I believe,” he said of the early-fourth-quarter, second-and-two play at the NC State 32 on Sept. 25 2010 at Bobby Dodd. “I ran a scheme up the middle of the field. We were running a tight bunch formation and Nesbitt hit me right on the money. The safety kind of flew out to cover the wheel route that was coming out of the backfield and we ran a play right on the money and we broke it big.”
The TD brought the Yellow Jackets back to within 31-21, in a game they would eventually lose, 45-28, to the Wolfpack, who were quarterbacked by Super Bowl XLVIII-winning QB Russell Wilson.
Melton still relishes the opportunity he had to play against Wilson and other top-flight competition in his four years. He also enjoyed the opportunity to be on the field with Thomas, then Stephen Hill and Kevin Cone, all of whom currently play in the NFL. He likes to kid with Thomas about his presence opening the field up for him.
“I was the better looking guy, so everybody wanted to kind of pair with me on the field. I kind of helped him get open more,” he said, with a laugh.
“There was talent all around,” he added. “I’m really proud of them, the way that they’ve taken their game to the next level. Those are my brothers and I love watching them play on Sunday.”
Melton followed his NFL aspirations following graduation, landing a tryout with the Atlanta Falcons, but he would not stick with the team.
He was grateful for the opportunity and harbored no regrets — a theme consistent with him throughout his life.
“When I think of Georgia Tech Football the biggest thing I think about is the camaraderie,” he said. “I think about all the times that we shared and all the things that we accomplished, the championship, beating Georgia, all those things were pillars of our career at Georgia Tech.
“I’m pretty satisfied with my four-year career,” he added. “I had my shot. I don’t regret anything. I have never been a guy to regret things at all. Things happen for a reason and things have happened for my good. I’m in a great position right now with Coca Cola.”
The NFL’s loss was Kraft’s then Coca Cola’s gain. Armed with the knowledge gained in acquiring his Bachelor’s in Business Management Melton was hired at Mondeléz International, an off-shoot of Kraft, and quickly worked his way up the ladder. With 16 months, he’d risen from sales associate to sales representative, to supervisor. Then, in February 2014, he vaulted a couple of rungs, being hired by Coca Cola as a district manager.
Like just about all student-athletes, Melton was anxious about finding a way to fill the void in his competitive side once out of sports. His role at Coca Cola has taken care of that.
“That’s why I like being in sales because it is so competitive. I get a taste of competition on a daily basis out here,” he said. “Although it may not be as physical as football was, it’s definitely competition nonetheless. With anything, I strive to be No. 1 and that’s kind of what I expect as well.”
Melton has high expectations and great respect for DeAndre Smelter, in whom he sees some of himself, especially after Smelter played receiver and on kickoff and punt returns in 2013.
“I kind of prided myself on being tenacious. Every play you were getting a 100 percent effort out of me,” said Melton, who proudly referred to his receiving a team effort award. “I see that in him as well. He’s just a natural athlete. He comes out and plays with a chip on his shoulder and he plays hard every snap. You can’t help but love that type of tenacity. I’m expecting big things from him.”
Melton expects that same tenacity out of this year’s Jackets, who he plans to see frequently.
“I stay in Atlanta. So whenever I can I like to make a game,” he said. “I think the team is young but full of talent. They’re hungry to win. You never know with a young team but they’ve got great coaching so I expect nothing less than a winning environment, a winning atmosphere there.”
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