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McKelvin latest coveted pro prospect out of Troy State

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Leodis McKelvin has that unshakable cornerback's confidence.

When the bigtime colleges passed on signing him out of high school, he figured he'd just prove them wrong. Those two years as a backup for Troy didn't faze him either.

"I already had the confidence," McKelvin said. "It was just a moment thing. I had to sit behind some seniors. I knew I had to wait and just get better and better every year. When I got my chance to start at corner, I elevated my abilities to another level."

Now, he's poised to take them to the next level. McKelvin is one of the top-rated defensive players in next weekend's NFL Draft, a projected Top-10 pick and the latest Troy defender to become a coveted pro commodity.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora helped the New York Giants win a Super Bowl, and he and Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware both made the Pro Bowl.

"That gives you a lot of credibility," McKelvin said.

The speedy 5-foot-11, 186-pounder also has plenty of credibility as a return man. He led the nation with three punt returns for touchdowns as a senior -- giving him eight for his career, one shy of the NCAA record -- and averaging 18.3 yards per return.

McKelvin, a late qualifier academically, received some interest from big-name schools out of high school in Waycross, Ga. Their scholarship offers never came, though.

"People overlooked me," he said. "I guess I was their backup plan if they didn't get the guy they wanted. I proved them wrong. I had a chip on my shoulder."

McKelvin made an impact at Troy as a freshman return man, but split time with veteran cornerbacks and didn't start a game on defense until his third season.

"My junior year I got my name out there as a cornerback," he said. "I was already a dynamic return man. My senior year I just put both of them together and everything came out how I wanted."

The high-profile schools might have overlooked him, but McKelvin got plenty of opportunities to play against the likes of Nebraska and Florida State and receivers such as Georgia Tech All-American Calvin Johnson.

McKelvin can still recite Johnson's numbers from their meeting in 2006: two catches for 9 yards. The current NFL receiver was slowed by an injury sustained in the second quarter, but the matchup results are still a point of pride for McKelvin.

"He went two for nine," he said. "You tell me how he did. He played the whole game and went two for nine. I did a great job."

Troy secondary coach Jeremy Rowell said the NFL interest in McKelvin grew after his performance against Oklahoma State last season. He scored on a 74-yard punt return, broke up three passes, made seven tackles and forced a fumble in the Trojans' upset win over the Big 12 team.

Rowell said McKelvin has a high ceiling in the NFL.

"He has a great future in front of him and a great upside," he said. "As far as raw ability, hips, foot speed -- all the things you look for out of a corner -- he's just gifted with all of it.

"You throw in the return ability that goes with it ... he has a great knack for that, which makes him a very hot commodity."

With his typical confidence, McKelvin expects whichever team drafts him to utilize both skills.

"You get an excellent corner and you get one of the top return men in college football history," he said. "Why wouldn't you use me at both?"

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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