Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) defensive end Melvin Keihn has been attracting a ton of attention around the recruiting circuit and currently has 15 offers from some of the top schools in the nation like Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, but compared to a number of his peers, the talented defender has taken a much different road to get to where he is right now.
“The first time I started playing football was my eighth grade year and I pretty much fell in love with the game right away,” recalled Keihn. “It's kind of weird because when I first came to the United States from Africa, I didn't really like football and to tell you the truth I really kind of hated it.
“I decided to try out for the football team my eighth grade year and I actually made the team. After a couple practices we had our first scrimmage and I got a chance to hit somebody. I can't describe the feeling, but I knew I just loved to run around in pads hitting people and I just wanted to do it over and over.”
That's just what he did and come to find out he was really good at it, but everybody knew that this talented young man still had a lot to learn about football.
“Usually I'm pretty good at picking up stuff, so my coach started teaching me the rules of the game before our first scrimmage,” he said. “My great coach was able to teach me a lot about the game, but I'm still learning more about football every single day.”
As Keihn continue to evolve his confidence grew and that's when his true talent came busting out. While this allowed him to dominate his junior high opponents, the move to high school would definitely be an eye-opening experience for the talented defender.
“When I first came to Gilman, I knew that I was going to have a lot to learn to play at that level,” admitted the Gilman standout. “When I was playing in eighth grade it was like a man against boys out there. I was the biggest kid out there and not only was I playing on offense and defense, but I was also the kick returner, punt returner and kicker. When they would kick the ball to me, it seemed like I was always returning it for a touchdown or at least for 60 to 70 yards every time. It was great for me because I was the biggest kid out there and could do pretty much what I wanted on the field.
“When I made the move up to high school it was a different story because a lot of the kids were bigger and stronger than I was at the time. I knew I had a lot to learn, but it's really been a good experience for me.”
At Gilman, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior was also able to get his first look at the world of recruiting.
“I really didn't know anything about college scholarship offers when I got to high school, but instead I was just playing because I loved the game,” he claimed. “I know when I started watching the NFL I would say, ‘I want to play in the NFL,’ but I was a young kid then and had just moved here from Africa, so I had no idea you could get college scholarships to play football. I didn't realize this until I got to Gilman and seen some of my teammates being recruited.
“Once I learned that there was a possibility that I could go to college by playing football, I decided to work my butt off so that I might have that opportunity. My sophomore year I received my first offer from Maryland and I was like, ‘I can't believe this is really happening.’ Now the offers are rolling in and I'm extremely excited because I now know that I'm going to have that opportunity and I'm extremely motivated to become the best player I can possibly be.”
There's also something very personal that drives that motivation.
“I've had a number of people that’s been influential in my football journey and though most players will say it's their head coach, which I agree he’s been a huge influence in my life, but I would have to say my biggest influence has been my mother,” shared Keihn. “It's kind of tough because my mother isn't with me and is still back in Africa. My dream is to one day bring my mother to the United States to be with me. Now that I know that I'm going to be able to go to college, even if I don't make the NFL, I'm going to have the opportunity to fulfill that dream.
“My mother is always on my mind day in and day out. I haven't seen my mother in over 10 years, so whether I’m on the football field, off the football field, in the classroom or outside the classroom she's always on my mind. That's why I keep working as hard as I can because once I get my education it's going to be easier for me to send for her.”