Player Profile: Melvin Gordon is quieting doubters and changing minds

Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (25) carries for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Empower Field at Mile High.
Dec 12, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (25) carries for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Gordon hasn’t had the most welcoming stay in his two seasons as a Denver Bronco. In fact, his entire NFL career had been a bit bumpy.

Last week he was asked about returning to the team in 2022. He gave an honest answer saying, “I’d love to be here. I don’t think many people want me here; as far as the fans, man, I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff.”

However, Gordon and fellow teammate Javonte Williams have helped lead the Broncos to have the 11th best rushing rank in the NFL. On track to have one of the most productive seasons of his career, Gordon is on a mission to prove he’s worth bringing back.

Gordon was born and raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

When he was a kid, Gordon’s father, Bo, would rummage through trash cans on the sidewalk for water bottles. He’d set the bottles up as cones and have his son run through drills. He finally signed him up to play football when he turned nine years old.

Gordon attended Mary D. Bradford High School, where he played football and ran track.

As a senior, Gordon was named all-state when he rushed for 2,009 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was named the Wisconsin Gatorade Football Player of the Year.

Rivals.com labeled Gordon a four-star recruit, the No. 1 recruit in Wisconsin, and the No. 6 running back in the nation.

Gordon initially committed to the University of Iowa but decided to stay close to home and de-committed late into the 2010 season and chose to attend the University of Wisconsin.

In March 2012, Gordon’s father, Bo, was sentenced to 10 years for his role in a northern Illinois cocaine dealing ring.

Although devastating to Gordon, he used it as fuel for motivation. “It was hard to run the household and take care of my mom when I was in college, but I wanted to be in a position to be able to take care of them when I got done with school.”

At Wisconsin, Gordon rushed for 4,915 yards and scored 49 total touchdowns. He holds the school’s record for the most single-season rushing yards with 2,587.

In addition to his Doak Walker Award, Gordon was the runner-up for the 2014 Heisman Trophy. He also took home the Big Ten’s Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year Award and the Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year Award.

Gordon decided to waive his final year of college eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

In his final college game, the 2015 Outback Bowl, he rushed for 251 yards against Auburn University in a 34–31 overtime win. He set the Outback Bowl rushing record and was named MVP.

The then-San Diego Chargers selected Gordon in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the 15th overall pick.

NFL Career

On May 15, 2015, Gordon signed a four-year, fully guaranteed contract for $10.66 million, with a $6 million signing bonus. The contract included a fifth-year option.

Gordon was named the team’s starting running back in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, it was an underwhelming debut. He finished the season opener with 14 carries, 51 rushing yards, three receptions, 16 receiving yards, and lost a fumble in their 33–28 victory.

With three lost fumbles through only six weeks, the Chargers benched Gordon in Week 7 against the then-Oakland Raiders. He returned to his starting position the following week.

A Week 16 knee injury against the Miami Dolphins ended his first season early. He finished his rookie season with 184 carries, 641 rushing yards, 33 receptions, 192 receiving yards, six fumbles, and no touchdowns in 14 games and 12 starts.

Gordon’s sophomore season was much improved. He finished with 10 touchdowns, rushing 254 times for 997 yards, and had 41 receptions for 419 yards and two touchdowns.

Gordon was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2016 as a replacement for an injured Le’Veon Bell.

His father was released from prison in August 2017. What started as a 10-year sentence was reduced to five. Because he couldn’t watch Chargers’ games in the Midwest, he had mainly just watched highlights of his son after the game was over. He attended his first professional game of his son’s in Week 1. On his dad’s return, Gordon said, “To have him back is a beautiful thing.”

The 2018 campaign was Gordon’s best season yet. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and a total of 885 yards, rushed for ten touchdowns, and had zero lost fumbles. He was selected to his second Pro Bowl.

Entering his fifth season, Gordon told the Chargers that he would demand to be traded and skip training camp if he did not receive a new contract on July 23, 2019. His goal in the holdout was to make as much money as the highest-paid running backs in the league. Gordon said, “I know my value. I know what I bring to this team, and I’m sticking with that.”

Gordon returned to the team in Week 5 and became a free agent at the end of the season.

On March 26, 2020, Gordon signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Denver Broncos.

Fans were divided on the signing. They had grown to love Denver South and University of Colorado product Phillip Lindsay and didn’t like that carries were being taken from him.

Now in his second year with the team, Gordon seems to have won them over. He’s on track to hit over 1,000 rushing yards and has a combined nine rushing and receiving touchdowns.

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