Melvin Gordon always dreamed his football career would eventually lead him to Lambeau Field.
While the Kenosha native envisioned it coming as a member of the Green Bay Packers, this might be the next best thing.
After an historic run at the University of Wisconsin, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound rookie returns to his home state this weekend as the San Diego Chargers’ starting running back. He’ll make his sixth NFL start in front of a large contingent of family and friends against the team he grew up idolizing.
His mother, Carmen, has been put in charge of arranging tickets for everyone and it’s no small task.
“It’s definitely a ton of people,” said Gordon, the 15th-overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. “I’ve got people texting me left and right. ‘Can you get me two tickets?’ They think it’s college where the tickets are free and I’m like, ‘It’s not the same anymore. I’ve got to come up with it out of my own pocket.’”
The cost of tickets isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Gordon admits the speed of the game has picked up considerably. He was an All-American during his redshirt junior year with the Badgers (343 carries for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns).
Gordon is still looking for his first breakout performance in the NFL. So far, he’s rushed for 270 yards on 71 carries (3.8 yards per carry) and has yet to score a touchdown. His opportunities have been limited with veteran running back Danny Woodhead also averaging 11.6 touches per game this season.
The Chargers have built their offense around quarterback Phillip Rivers. They traded up to draft Gordon in hope of revitalizing their running game, which ranked 30th in the NFL last season. Each game has been an education for Gordon.
“It’s still a learning curve, man,” Gordon said. “It's a big difference. There's guys that are a lot faster, stronger. You've got to set up your moves, your one-on-ones a lot faster. There's still a lot of things I need to learn, but I'm getting reps and I'm out there, so I'm able to pick it up and I'm able to work things out.”
Gordon has enjoyed the Southern California climate. He’s heard a lot from family and friends complaining about the cold winds rising in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, it's been shorts and sandals weather in San Diego with temperatures hovering in the 70s. Don’t get him wrong, though. Gordon is looking forward to the trip.
He came to a Packers’ game during his time at Kenosha Bradford High School and had his All-American high school football banquet at the Lambeau Field Atrium, along with former Bradford teammate and current Minnesota cornerback Trae Waynes.
This weekend, Gordon’s excited to catch up with former Badgers teammate Jared Abbrederis, now a second-year receiver for the Packers. He’s also looking forward to sharing the experience with his family.
“I always told my mom when I was a baby that I wanted to play for the Packers,” Gordon said. “Didn’t work out that way, but it’ll be an honor to go there and play and see those guys.”
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