Staff Photo: John Bohn Matthew Melton, is senior soccer player with North Gwinnett High School. Melton has a soccer scholarship with Appalachian State University.
For the Daily Post's boys soccer Super Six, Brookwood's Adrian Alabi was asked who the best player was in Gwinnett County.
He could have said a number of guys, but Alabi quickly threw out the name Matthew Melton. It was a shout out to his friend and club soccer teammate.
"I saw that," Melton said with a laugh. "He's such a good guy, so I appreciate it."
But for Melton, it has meant the North Gwinnett senior has had to live up to high expectations.
Melton is trying to prove Alabi right by leading the Bulldogs to the state playoffs for a third straight season.
"I try my best," Melton said. "I'm not getting too cocky about it. I'm just trying to represent Concorde Fire."
North has lost in the first round of the state playoffs the last two seasons. The Bulldogs will find out if they have a playoff caliber team this week when they face last year's state runner-up Collins Hill. North's success will hinge on the ability of Melton.
"I'm just trying to be a playmaker in the middle of the field right now," he said.
Melton has two goals from his midfield position and one assist, but those stats don't do him justice of the impact he makes on the field.
"He's our workhorse. He's all over the place," North coach Michael Wentzler said. "It's a blessing and a curse that he's so fit and able to pick up where other people let down. He never gives up, he's always working, he's always pushing."
Melton's hard working approach and personality has trickled down to his teammates. He's constantly moving on the field, helping his teammates get into position. He's also the one to get them fired up before a game.
It's a different side to him that you see with his laid back demeanor off the field.
"He's a captain and one of the hardest working guys on the field. He plays at a very high level. He's just a really good leader," Wentzler said. "He gets the guys motivated and everyone rallies around him. He's just has an aura about him, you want to listen to him and work."
Against Class AAAA's No. 1 ranked McIntosh, Melton felt like the team was playing scared in the first half. The team came out aggressive in the second half, but two fluke goals gave the Bulldogs a loss.
North also had a strong showing against Class AAA's No. 3 ranked Greater Atlanta Christian, taking the Spartans to a 2-2 tie.
It's close games against high-caliber teams that Melton hopes the team will learn from the rest of the season.
"As a captain, he's kind of a coaches dream. He's a great player, he's humble about it, he knows when it's time to work and when it's time to be serious," Wentzler said. "The guys gravitate towards him. It's almost like having another coach."
Wentzler first met Melton when he was 12 years old. Wentzler played at Duluth and regularly helped out at the Tavani Soccer Camps where Melton was a camper.
"He was just a really good technical player, very hard working, very good personality," Wentzler said. "He was very open, ready to work and ready to play."
The two crossed paths again when Melton was a ball boy for Duluth while Wentzler was a player.
"I remember thinking 'Wow, he's kind of an intimidating guy.' He's bigger and I was always really scared of him, actually," Melton said.
When Wentzler took the North job last season, he knew Melton would be one of his go-to players.
"I kind of had an idea of what caliber player he was," Wentzler said.
Melton scored three goals and had six assists last year, but it was his impact off the field that made the difference.
"He has an outgoing personality, so the guys are more inclined to listen to him," Wentzler said.
"I just do my own thing and I hope people listen," added Melton.
Melton has gotten the attention of Alabi. The duo have been teammates on the Concorde Fire Soccer Club, which is based out of Atlanta, for the last few years. They helped the team to a No. 1 ranking in the nation last year. A big part of that was Melton's hard work in the midfield.
"People ask me how I'm able to keep going," Melton said. "I'm just as fit as all the other guys out there, I just push myself."