There are nearly 130 division one, FBS football programs across the United States, each team carrying rosters north of 100 players, making it a total close to 13,000 football players on FBS rosters. In each of those locker rooms across the country, it took every player a different journey to make it to where they are and where they are heading. A star wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide is guaranteed to have a different story than a walk on linebacker at Middle Tennessee. As for Arkansas State Red Wolves linebacker Melique Straker, not many can say they took a similar journey.
Coming from Brampton, Ontario, Canada it is already hard enough to make it as a division one football player. From the coaching, development and exposure to the surrounding talent and competition, there isn’t much help in Canada to get to the division one level. It takes a certain type of football player, and a certain type of person with a certain mentality to get to that level. For Straker, he has proven to be all of that since the moment he stepped foot on the football field, and from that moment he’s been focused on becoming the athlete he is today. “I definitely got serious about football right from the beginning.” he told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “since I started playing I always was focused on a dream I had.”
Those dreams that Straker had were to go to the NFL, something he is now getting close to, but even where he is at now, at Arkansas State, it took a long ways to get here.
He started playing football as a kid in Brampton in club football. He remembers getting into football through his dad, and his older cousins. “My dad told me before my first football game, ‘you’re going to go out there and there is going to be a play where you get hit really hard and from that moment on you’ll figure out if you want to play football or not.’ And what happened was exactly what he predicted. I went out there, got hit, and I bounced right back up. From then on I knew I wanted to play football, and I knew I had something in me to play football.” He then went on to play at Saint Roch Catholic Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario where he excelled on and off the field, getting an opportunity across the Canada-USA border at Saint Francis High School in Buffalo, New York. In Buffalo he got the opportunity to play American football, get better and showcase his talents on a bigger stage than the one previously set for him in Brampton. Then, for his senior year of high school, in 2018 Straker returned to Canada to play for Football North, a high school football team in Clarkson, Ontario that plays an all American schedule. At Football North he played with a number of other athletes that went on to play division one football, and he remembers it as, “a great experience.” he said, “playing in the states against some of the best teams was a great way to get better, and I will always appreciate the time I spent at Football North because of the experience and everything I gained out of it.”
While a few of his teammates from Football North went on to division one schools, unfortunately Straker didn’t get an opportunity to play across the border straight out of high school, but that didn’t stop him from working to get there. Out of high school, Straker committed to Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada where he played the 2019 U Sports season in Canada. That season he won the Carleton Ravens rookie of the year award, and made an impact for the Ravens despite the lack of playing time and opportunities.
The following Carleton Ravens season was then cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and without a season to play, Melique Straker wanted to become better in football, and he wanted to take advantage of the time he had to make something out of nothing. That following summer Straker went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to spend time and train with good friend John Metchie at the University of Alabama. He was able to train, workout, eat and be around the Crimson Tide facilities as if he was on the team, to a point where players forgot he wasn’t on the team when it came time for the staff at Alabama to help him through the recruiting process to play division one football. Talking about the time in Alabama, and how he landed the opportunity at Arkansas State University, Straker told Zlomislic, “I was around the team a lot. And it was a great experience to be around that program with (John) Metchie and my brothers. When I was there the coaches took a liking to me, really seeing a kid with a dream, a kid with aspirations and a kid that can play ball. They ended up getting some good film of me when I was there and started sending it off to other coaches and schools around the country, and when Butch Jones at Arkansas State saw my film and some other coaches, they wanted to see me in for a workout.” A few combine activities and drills later the name Melique Straker was officially affiliated with Arkansas State University.
In just one of his first games at Arkansas State, he made a big impact, making 6 tackles against power five opponent University of Washington, which was then followed by another 44 tackles over the season, giving him a total 50 tackles in his first division one football season, alongside 3 tackles for loss and a fumble.
That season for Straker, despite it being a huge moment for him didn’t seem like a ” ‘I’ve made it’ moment” he said because, “I was already there.” explaining, “even when I was in the process and working out that summer I was mentally already there. I was working like I was, and even if I wasn’t there at that moment I knew I was going to (be there).”
At that stage, playing division one football, fulfilling his dreams, he is taking full advantage of what he has in front of him and the journey he has taken will only help him on and off of the football field moving forward in his career and life. Talking about that journey; playing for three high schools, going to University in Canada, spending a summer in Alabama, and making it to Arkansas State he said, “it’s taught me to be emotionally resilient, to emotional resolve and allowed me to have a standard of performance, of things I do over how I feel and thats something that allows me to say that I’ve learned, I have made it farther. With this emotional resiliency, times are tough, you can be in practice and something doesn’t go your way, you could be in a game and things don’t go your way but life is all about how you respond so I think that football itself is a microcosm of life so the better you are at the game in controlling your emotions, doing your job, being consistent, having a staggered performance day in and day out, thats the biggest thing I’ve learned and will continue to learn throughout the journey and in football.”
Being at Arkansas State, he did talk more about just being there in the moment with a full season of eligibility following the 2022 season. He said, “I’ve learned to try and base yourself in gratitude as well so like as all of this is happening and moving so fast at times you have to re-set yourself sometimes and remember there was a time where you were and now there’s a time where I prayed to be at so I think thats on elf the biggest thing, now that you’re here, also being grateful for it.”
Grateful for everything that he has, and what he is still in the process of getting, Melique Straker has 6 games left in his 2022 season, and with the NFL on the mind and in the picture, expect nothing but greatness from number 21 for the Red Wolves moving forward.