There are many things that Melvin Briggs can identify.
After watching his game film, he can recognize when he should cut a bit sooner.
The 17-year-old knows when he must focus more on his school work.
He can even spot a miniature plastic bottle hiding in the neatly-trimmed bushes at St. David’s School, plucking out the trash to keep his campus a clean place.
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But one of his most intriguing realizations came around his sophomore year of high school, when he discovered why he wakes up to work out everyday at 6 a.m., spends Sunday reviewing football film to send to colleges and trains tirelessly to perfect his sport.
Briggs, a starting running back at St. David’s, saw how much his parents were willing to sacrifice for his future.
“Going to this school is a very, very big expense for a family,” Briggs said of attending St. David’s, which cost more than $18,000 a year for students between seventh and 12th grade, according to the school’s website. He’ll be entering his senior year this season. “I’m not exactly the son of a senator. I can’t go down to Cancun for a week just because we felt bored. I don’t have that kind of story, and that’s fine because not everybody has that kind of story.”
When Briggs’ father can’t make a football game due to work travels, Briggs said he’ll call afterward and ask about his performance.
Last season, Briggs had many highlights to share from a year that included a 95-yard touchdown and 1,410 total yards as a junior. He rushed for 1,327 to lead the Warriors.
His father was a major influence in Briggs’ football career, from the time he signed him up for the local Pop Warner youth football league at 4-years old. He also coached Melvin for a few years of his childhood.
But when Briggs began attending St. David’s his freshman year, he noticed his parents going the extra mile to financially invest in his private school studies and his athletic career.
Seeing my dad wear the same pair of shoes for a year and a half but still find the money to buy me new clothes and buy me new shoes without complaining, it’s just---wow.
Melvin Briggs - St. David’s running back
“Seeing my dad wear the same pair of shoes for a year and a half but still finding the money to buy me new clothes and buy me new shoes without complaining, it’s just — wow,” Briggs said. “This guy really loves me. My parents really love me. What can I do to show that love back? What can I do to say ‘thank you?’ I have to do more.
“That pushes me to do more.”
For starters, Briggs has exposed himself to some popular football camps over the last 10 months.
His next stop will be USA National Development Games in College Station, TX, on July 24. Since September, he’s attended or has been invited to several workouts, including the Southern Elite Top 150 Combine and the NUC Ultimate 100.
“It’s been a very, very eventful summer,” Briggs said, “and we still have one more month (before high school workouts start).”
Briggs, though having played multiple other sports at one time or another, has always felt a strong connection to football.
He said his father, who he’s named after, played and was a star at Murfreesboro High School.
Briggs always hears the story of the time when his dad, a Steelers fan, gave him a Terrible Towel and said one day he’d be able to use it. A young Briggs suggested that he could just play football and soon after found himself enrolled in Pop Warner, where he “just got hooked on it. I was just fun.”
“I just love it,” Briggs added. “(Playing football) is a feeling like no other. It’s like getting an A on a test whenever you go on the field. It’s amazing.”
Briggs got his first start with St. David’s as a sophomore. He said he only amassed 55 yards over the first couple of games but wound up finishing with more than 1,000 as he became more in tune with his body and his position.
Since, he’s participated in technique training and has his workout routines regulated through his mother, who is a physician assistant at Duke University, and his grandmother.
“It’s like a big team, I guess you can say, that kind of helps keep me in order,” Briggs said.
But he keeps his foot on the gas for a much bigger purpose.
“Going out there everyday, it’s hard, it’s hot, I don’t like it, I’m tired,” he said. “I’m 17 — I may not want to be out there. I like fishing just like everybody else. I want to go to the beach, but at the end of the day, it’s only a few people in this country who have the ability to go to school on a scholarship.”
There are more than 1 million high school football players in the country, and only 6.5 percent have the probability to in NCAA programs, according to NCAA.org. Of that, 2.5 percent will play in D-I, 2.3 in D-III and 1.7 in D-II.
But only 2 percent of high school athletes will receive scholarships.
Sherry Kapelar, St. David’s athletic director, said though she’s only beginning the second year in her post, she instantly recognized the impact Briggs had on and off the field.
“When I came in, it was clear Melvin was one our best athletes,” Kapelar said. “He was a two-way contributor on the football and was certainly valuable. He works hard, he enjoys it, he always has a smile on his face.
“He’s going to make it fun.”
Briggs stays involved in athletics throughout the academic year by volunteering with other teams, such as the middle school basketball teams.
He operates the clock during those games.
On a mission trip to Ethiopia two years ago, Briggs said he helped feed the homeless, renovate a church and install a new library computer system. He is a member of his school’s Fly Fishing Club and has been cast in two school musicals over the last couple of years.
“He’s well-liked,” Kapelar said. “His peers look up to him, and you can’t beat hard work.”
Paying it forward
Briggs’ favorite running back is Walter Payton, an “Old School” choice as he called it.
Though the former Chicago Bears star died when Briggs was 1, he grew up to watch video of the Hall-of-Fame running back because of his dynamic skillset.
“He’s one of the special ones that you don’t see,” Briggs said of Payton, a nine-time Pro Bowler. “I mean, we have players like Marshawn Lynch and Marcus Dupree and Reggie Bush. Other than Marshawn Lynch, who’s like a beast, they’re all one-dimensional. Walter Payton, not only was he quick, but he was strong. Not only was he strong, but he was in control. Not only was he in control, he was also very nifty. If I’m correct, I think he actually used to take ballet lessons, so he was really light on his feet.
“You wanna see some one tip toe into the end zone?”
And Briggs was right, Payton did take those ballet classes.
Briggs may not take ballet, but he’s chasseing his way to secure his ultimate goal of obtaining a football scholarship.
He said he’s garnered interest from several college athletic programs during his stops around the country.
“I want to get that money to pay for it so you can look your parents in the eye and say ‘Thank you. You don’t have to worry about paying my college tuition because I’ve worked hard for you,’” Briggs said. “I’m going to college on a scholarship and this is all because of them. It’s just that little ‘thank you’ I can give my parents.
“They really push me at the end of the day.”
Morgan: 919-829-4538; Twitter: @JessikaMorgan