Gary Melton Sr. hears the question all the time.
“How did you do it?” people ask.
Gary and his wife, Vicky, have three children — Gary Jr., Bo and Malachi.
All three were or are outstanding Cedar Creek High School athletes. All three earned NCAA Division I football scholarships. That’s probably worth at least $600,000 in college tuition.
Gary Jr., a 2013 Cedar Creek graduate, played at Delaware State University from 2013-16 and now works as a probation officer in Cape May County. Bo, a 2017 Creek graduate, will be a junior wide receiver at Rutgers this fall. Malachi, a rising senior at Cedar Creek, verbally committed this week to play defensive back at Purdue.
The Mays Landing residents are arguably the first family of Cape-Atlantic League sports.
“I don’t have anything to complain about,” Gary said with a big smile. “Three kids — full scholarships.”
Of course the easy answer to the Meltons’ scholarship success is the example Gary and Vicky set.
Gary Melton Sr. is one of the top athletes in Absegami High School history. A 1987 graduate, he excelled at football and track and field. Melton went on to play football at Rutgers, where he met and later married Vicky Green, who starred at basketball for McCorristin High School — now Trenton Catholic. She helped the Rutgers women’s basketball team win the 1993 Atlantic 10 championship.
If the parents did it, why not their children?
“There was nothing in my mind,” Gary said, “that said my children couldn’t get full scholarships.”
Gary and Vicky got their sons thinking about college at early ages.
“From the beginning, it was, ‘You’re not paying for college and this is how you’re going to do it,’” Gary said. “You’re going to do well in school. You’re going to study hard. You’re going to learn to play the game the right way. We believed if they did that, they could achieve a full scholarship.”
But earning a Division I scholarship is easier said than done.
“It’s surreal,” Gary said. “You believe it your whole life. You talk about it at the dinner table. You take them to colleges when they didn’t know what a college was. To see it come to fruition, it’s a higher power.”
Gary said while they shared athletic success, his sons are each different.
“My oldest boy needed a smaller school,” he said. “Bo was all over the place. Bo was Bo. Malachi was always looking at schools when I didn’t think he was looking at schools and seeing where he would fit at.”
There were plenty of sacrifices along the way.
Before he announced his college choice, Malachi recalled his mother driving him from soccer to football practice on many nights.
“It gets me choked up,” he said.
Gary recalled one Saturday where he watched Gary Jr. play for Delaware State, Bo play for Cedar Creek and Malachi play for the Egg Harbor City Crusaders of the Atlantic County Junior Football League.
The biggest change for the Meltons will come after the 2019-20 school year.
“We opened in 2010, and we’ve always had a Melton on the field,” Cedar Creek principal Scott Parker said at Malachi’s announcement Tuesday. “That will change after next year. Unless you’re hiding another one.”
Vicky and Gary laughed and shook their heads.
Let the countdown to the grandchildren begin.