Brothers Gary and Bo paved the way for Malachi “Max” Melton at Cedar Creek and next year at this time the rising high school senior will be following in their footsteps as an NCAA Division I football player.

Melton, one of the top athletes in the state and a three-year starter for the Pirates as a wide receiver and defensive back, announced this afternoon in front of friends, family and media in the newly revamped Cedar Creek High School gymnasium that he chose Purdue University over other finalists Rutgers and Temple.

It was an interesting choice considering that both of his parents, Gary Sr. and Vicky, attended Rutgers and were standout athletes for the Scarlet Knights, and Bo is a rising junior at Rutgers and a wide receiver. Gary, the oldest of the three Melton boys, played his college football at Delaware State.

Melton said he was almost certain Purdue would be his choice after taking an official visit to the campus in West Lafayette, Ind., last month. The Boilermakers, one of the up-and-coming teams in the Big Ten Conference, went 6-7 last fall but scored a huge upset over then-No. 2 ranked Ohio State on Oct. 20, and later upset No. 19 Iowa and took Wisconsin into three overtimes before losing 47-44.“Ever since I stepped on (Purdue’s) campus, I felt at home, they welcomed me with wide-open arms. Their facilities are top of the line and their coaching staff has a lot of great experience. I just felt at home, and I fell in love with it as soon as I stepped off the plane,” Max Melton said. “(There were a lot of) sleepless nights, nights up until 2 or 3 in the morning, just thinking, but I feel like I made the right decision. Obviously, there’s no love lost with Rutgers, it’s great what they are doing over there and I wish them the best, but I felt like Purdue was the right thing for me. (Bo) left it up to me, 100 percent. He told me the perks, the pros and cons about Rutgers, and he treated Rutgers like it was any other school, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”

“I knew about 90 percent. I wanted to keep that other 10 percent because I wanted to see Rutgers. I’ve been to Rutgers a hundred times, but had never been on an official (visit). There were a lot of great things I got to see at Rutgers on the official that I hadn’t gotten to see before,” Melton said. “(My parents) were very understanding. Obviously, they are alumni of Rutgers and they told  me they would like to see me there, but they were very understanding and were just like Bo, treating Rutgers like it was any other school and letting the choice be mine.”

“With all three of them it was a different process. Recruiting changes over the years, and it’s changed drastically since my first son went off to college. But it’s all good because each of them are their own person and they each do things a little differently. It’s been a very exciting experience for each of them in different ways,” said Max’s mom, Vicky, who was a star athlete during her days at Rutgers. “It’s a great opportunity for him and it was totally his decision. He’s the one who has to go to school there to get his degree and excel in athletics as well. He has to be there; my husband and I were just there for guidance so that he knew what he was getting into as far as academics, athletics — what school had what to offer him. We told him that whatever school you choose has to check off boxes for what you want to do. We’re happy with his decision.”

Melton was surrounded by coaches, friends, family and media when he announced his decision, but stressed that it takes a lot of hard work to be able to sit in that chair and get to enjoy that moment.

“This means a bunch. Where I come from (this) is what everybody is chasing. I’m from Mays Landing and everybody is chasing the same thing. Everything you hear at school, out on the playground, is ‘I want to go D-I, I want to go D-I.’ But what separates D-I from the normal people is the work you put in,” he said. “It doesn’t just come to you naturally, you have to put in the work for it and that’s what I felt I’ve done.”

Having two older brothers who already have gone through the process certainly was an advantage.

“It helped a ton. I don’t know what I would have done without them,” Max said. “Even with them, I was so stressed out, so if I didn’t have people who have been through the process before and knew what to tell me and what to do, I don’t know what I would do. They were very helpful throughout the whole process.”

“It’s been a transition for all of them. They learn from one another. Throughout the process he got a chance to see his two older brothers and what they had to go through, so that was an advantage. It’s exciting, because I’ve watched them since pee-wee football, and to see them come up and mature in who they are now. They have a ways to go in college football, but it’s exciting,” Vicky added. “I’m grateful to God for my three sons. We try to do our best to raise them right with good character and moral values, and just being a good human all together. We’re proud of all three of them. I’m always going to be a mom, I don’t care how old they get. I’m always going to be on them.”

Gary Sr. and Vicky will have one more fall of high school football to enjoy as Max prepares for his senior season with his teammates and coaches. The Pirates will be looking to improve upon a 2018 season that saw them go 4-5 and fall to Pleasantville in the opening round of the state playoffs. Melton (6-foot, 165 pounds) is a three-star recruit and the ranked No. 25 among New Jersey wide receivers according to rivals.com, and also is one of the top defensive backs in the West Jersey Football League. He said he projects as a defensive back at Purdue.

Vicky Melton said she’ll savor every minute of his final high school season, as Cedar Creek has been part of the Melton family for nearly a decade now.

“It’s a family here at Cedar Creek. My oldest son was part of the first graduating class and it’s been nothing but greatness here, and that’s with every person that’s involved in this Egg Harbor City community. It’s a good thing,” she said. “My husband was born and raised in Egg Harbor City and I’ve been here for the last 26 years. We love Cedar Creek. I don’t know what I’m going to do after Max finishes. I’ll find somebody else who wears No. 16 and I’ll be rooting them on. Once a Pirate, always a Pirate.”

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