VALDESE — Draughn senior baseball and football player Daniel Melton maybe didn’t receive as much recognition as other Wildcat athletes.
But his self-proclaimed love for the game made him the perfect candidate for behind-the-scenes orchestrator.
It also recently earned Melton the honor of 2018-19 DHS male athlete of the year.
“I’ve loved (playing) both football and baseball from a young age. (My influence) is just the love for the game and past coaches who pushed me to keep playing and doing what I love,” said Melton.
Melton had to overcome missing the first six games of his senior year due to a preseason injury, but first-year Draughn football coach Chris Powell saw him bring life to the sidelines.
“He acted as another coach on the sideline coaching up the linebackers when they came off the field,” said Powell. “He never let (the injury) slow him down, he continued to work hard and lead the team.”
Melton made his season debut in a road game with county rival Patton and set a new school record with 17 tackles.
He finished with 63 tackles for the season (18 assisted) with eight tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and two sacks.
His three forced fumbles tied for second all-time at DHS in a single season, and Melton also received honorable mention honors on the 2018 all-county team.
“Daniel was a true leader on and off the field this year and will be greatly missed,” Powell added.
This past spring on the baseball diamond, Melton registered a .258 batting average (second on team) with batting in 11 runs (second) and scoring 15 runs, receiving team MVP honors and being named All-Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference.
Melton led the Wildcats by drawing 13 walks at the plate and stole six bases. He also pitched for 9 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts.
“Daniel was the vocal leader as well as the one who led by example,” said Draughn baseball coach Yates Jensen. “He was always hustling in the field and was willing to play any position that was asked of him.”
Some of the biggest highlights for Melton were recording four RBIs and scoring two runs in both home county rivalry wins over East Burke and Patton.
He also added two-hit games vs. St Stephens, Patton (Tony Causby Classic) and Hibriten (NWFAC tourney semifinals). The win over the Panthers in the Causby Classic also included his only career home run.
“You couldn’t have a better teammate than Daniel,” said Draughn senior Hunter Jensen, who played both sports with Melton. “He always puts the team before himself and gives 100 percent in everything he does.”
As the time has come to an end for Melton as a Wildcat, he will always keep the memories of the camaraderie on the gridiron and the diamond.
“Just being able to share the field with a great group of guys and getting fired up before a game is my favorite memories,” said Melton. “I appreciate all the coaches and the time and effort they put in to see us succeed, and just the way they always pushed me to go beyond my limits as an athlete and always do more and to keep working hard.”
Melton plans to attend Western Carolina University to study construction management.
Jason Baker can be reached at email@example.com.