After Henry Melton was switched from running back to defensive end at the University of Texas, moving from end to defensive tackle with the Bears didn’t require much of an adjustment.
Melton actually embraced the move, primarily because it was the idea of longtime defensive coach Rod Marinelli, who had helped Warren Sapp develop into a Pro Bowl tackle with the Buccaneers.
“I just wanted to help the defense any way I could, and when he said I had the stuff that he looks for in a premier defensive tackle, I listened to him and just got to work,” Melton said. “If he said that he saw me as an elite defensive tackle … I believed in what he was saying.”
The move has been a fruitful one for the Bears and Melton, who this week was voted to his first Pro Bowl. Despite missing the last two games with a chest injury, the four-year veteran has recorded 32 tackles and six sacks, tied for third most among NFL defensive tackles.
Marinelli felt that Melton would excel inside because he possessed speed, quickness and instincts.
“He’s got so much speed and all those things,” Marinelli said. “And I just felt over time he’s going to get what I call ‘man strength’ just as he gets older and matures. He can run and the balance is excellent. When you get guys inside with that athletic ability, now your match-ups are great.”
Melton is grateful to Marinelli for helping him develop as a player and a person.
“He’s a great guy, a great coach,” Melton said. “We spend a lot of hours together working, working extremely hard trying to mold me into a better man and definitely a better football player. I’ve got a lot of love for him and hopefully we can keep it going.”
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