Henry Melton recently joined Brandon Marshall, Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings as Chicago Bears players named to the 2012 NFC Pro Bowl roster, and he couldn't be happier about receiving the honor. Melton made a difficult transition from running back to defensive tackle as he transitioned into the pro ranks, but the speed and quickness he used in the backfield and on punt returns at Texas have helped him to excel in the Bears' one-game defense.
The Bears drafted Melton in the fourth-round of the 2009 NFL Draft with the hopes that he would be able to shoot gaps, get upfield and disrupt offensive timing in the Tampa-2 defense. In his third NFL season, the 26-year-old DT has developed into one of the best pass rushers on the team. He recorded seven sacks in 2011, and he has six sacks on the season heading into Week 17 this year, despite playing in just 13 games. More importantly, he has consistently broken through the line and penetrated upfield, which has forced opposing quarterbacks and running backs into tough positions that have often led to turnovers.
Melton told reporters that the Pro Bowl selection means a lot to him (via the Chicago Tribune):
"It's an amazing feeling. It's been a long journey from playing running back and defensive end and now being a Pro Bowl defensive tackle," Melton said. "It's an amazing feeling. There are a lot of people who had a hand in helping me, and I just appreciate it."
"I just wanted to help the defense any way I could, and when [defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli] said I had the stuff that he looks for in a premier defensive tackle, I listened to him and just got to work. If he said that he saw me as an elite defensive tackle, he's seen everybody -- (Warren) Sapp and a lot of guys that had come before me, and for him to say that I believed in what he was saying."
Melton will be seeking a long-term extension this off-season, and his recent Pro Bowl selection should provide him with additional leverage in negotiations when contract talks begin.