At the start of last season, 6-4 Bascom Mellon of Diamond Bar High was regarded in college scouting reports as one of the top defensive line prospects in the state.
One scouting service listed Mellon among the top 100 prospects in the nation.
That explains why Pacific 10 Conference powers USC, Washington and Arizona State were recruiting Mellon throughout his senior season.
Mellon says he originally expected to sign a letter of intent with one of those schools.
But as the NCAA national signing date approached last February, the interest of the top Pac 10 schools had disappeared.
That left Mellon to settle for recruiting visits to Washington State, Oregon State, Utah and Utah State--not exactly among the Who's Who of college football powers.
While Mellon is more than satisfied with his decision to attend Utah in the fall, he thinks college recruiters may have underestimated him.
Mellon will have an opportunity to prove the scouts wrong when he competes for the South in the 37th annual Shrine All-Star Football Classic at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl. And he is anxiously awaiting the chance.
"That's a big factor, no question about it," Mellon said. "This is a good chance to prove myself."
Why did the football powers lose interest?
"They backed off for various reasons," Mellon said. "There were probably some things they didn't like about me, and they probably felt they found somebody else (better)."
Mellon is convinced that he has the talent to become a big-time college player.
"I always felt that I could play with anyone," he said. "My only goal was to go to college. I had hopes of playing for one of the bigger schools.
"Someday I hope to prove they made a mistake."
Although he was a 2-time All-CIF Eastern Conference selection, Mellon says he was a little surprised to be selected to play in the Shrine game with most of the top graduated high school seniors.
Mellon remembers his reaction when he learned the news.
"It was a surprise, but I was very happy," he said. "Coach (Lance) Gross (of Diamond Bar) told me, and he was kind of nonchalant about it, and he just said, 'Well, you made the Shrine game,' and I said, 'No!' It was neat to make the team. You read about all these guys, and now you're playing with them."
If nothing else, Mellon says, the game will give him an opportunity to round into shape for his first season at Utah.
"I've been running about 5 miles a day. I was running with Coach Gross at first. I figured he could help me get motivated. He left me behind at first and told me that I was out of shape. So I've been running every other night."
He said that at 256 pounds he is in much better shape than earlier in the year.
"After my (recruiting) trips I was up to 280 pounds," he recalled. "But I went to work on that. I want to get to about 5.0 (seconds) in the 40-yard dash. I always felt that the thing that hurt me most was my speed."
Mellon also feels he has to improve his strength.
"It's something I want to work on," he said. "I lift. I think that gives me more stamina. I try to finish the game strongest at the end. I think that's when I'm at my best."
That is not what has made him a success as an athlete, though.
"I don't have blazing speed and I don't have Hercules strength, but I make a guy earn it if he's going to beat me," Mellon said.
At Diamond Bar, Mellon was a standout on the offensive and defensive lines but will play strictly defense in college, and that suits him fine.
"I'd much rather play defense because I don't have to control myself as much. You can let your hair down and just let yourself go. It's one of the few chances in life where you can do that.
"On offense you've got to know what you're doing at all times. It's a lot more structured than defense. You can't just go crazy and knock people down. On defense you can tear somebody's head off, keep running and look for somebody else to do it to."
The 18-year-old Mellon certainly has the size to wreak havoc.
Size is apparently something that runs in the Mellon family. His father, Bascom II, is 6-2, and his mother, Connie, is 5-10. He has an uncle who is 6-6 and 320 pounds and two cousins are Doug and Mike Barnett. Doug was a lineman for the Los Angeles Rams and Mike is an Olympic-caliber javelin thrower.
"I guess I was bred to be big," he said. "I guess I had no choice in the matter."
Mellon also gives his family a lot of the credit for motivating him to play football.
"I was kind of doing it for my dad because he had an accident (to his leg) when he was young and never got the chance to play. He had the mentality and the size to play. It was just physically that he couldn't.
"But my parents always supported me. I don't think they missed any of my high school football games."
He says he has also learned a lot from sister Shannon, a freshman at Diamond Bar.
"She's not an athlete, but she's excellent in school," he said. "She's very smart and someone I can always talk to when things go bad."