Jan. 23, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Richard Medlin admits he does a lot of dreaming. He won't go into detail about those dreams, but their depth and frequency seem to coincide with his work ethic.
When Medlin, a former Fayetteville State football star, speaks about the hours he puts in on and off the field, there is a twinkle in his eye and a deft curl around his lips that formulate a wistful smile. These REM ticks give hints to the highlights going on inside his head.
What's playing in his mind, though, remains only his own. Medlin is an NFL player now, having spent 16 weeks of the NFL's season on the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.
In Week 17, though, Medlin fully arrived on the NFL scene. Dressed in the uniform made famous by Don Shula, Dan Marino and Bob Griese - the crisp white offset by the Dolphins' signature teal No. 38 -- Medlin saw action on the day of future Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor's final game, a 19-17 victory over the rival New York Jets in Miami's Sun Life Stadium.
Just days after the season ended, Medlin signed a three-year contract with the Dolphins.
"It's a blessing, a dream come true," Medlin says. "Just to be playing in front of a crowd like that with other players you've watched on TV for many years, it's amazing. You're in the same locker room, in the same helmet and jersey as them. It's a shock, but it's a wonderful feeling. What a blessing."
Medlin starred at Fayetteville State, becoming the epitome of the self-made star. He redshirted his first year, then consistently worked his way up head coach Kenny Phillips'
"The thing about Richard is that he is a tireless worker who never quits," says Phillips. "Getting to the next level is all about the work you put in and what you do with your opportunities. That's who Richard is. He's always put in the extra effort and done everything he's needed to do to get to that next level."
Medlin was a constant for the Broncos during his career. A dynamic kickoff and punt returner, Medlin was the Broncos' leading kick returner in 2010 while being the featured back in the offense. In 2008, Medlin was brilliant, returning three kicks for touchdowns and amassing 500 yards on 12 kick returns for a staggering average of 41.7 yards per return. Medlin's long return that season was for 89 yards.
But Medlin was a capable and durable runner as well. He led the Broncos in rushing in 2010 with 772 yards on a 5.4 average per carry, scoring five touchdowns. He was also second on the team in total receptions, most of them coming out of the backfield, with 26. And he was a key cog in a Broncos' offense that helped Fayetteville State earn its third CIAA championship in 2009; Medlin rushed for 667 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.
Medlin wasn't drafted after completing his Fayetteville State career, but he quickly latched on with the New England Patriots as a free agent. Months before Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl, Medlin turned heads during the team's exhibition season.
He rushed for 66 yards on 20 carries while adding 39 yards on six receptions for New England. Medlin saw extended playing time in the Patriots' first preseason game on Aug. 11, rushing 14 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns. His first carry as an NFL running back went for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter of New England's 47-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Patriots' Gillette Stadium. Four weeks later, Medlin was signed by the Dolphins after the team waived two-time Pro Bowler Larry Johnson.
Since then, much of Medlin's time has been spent preparing for his next chance. While he got it in the regular season finale in front of 75,192 spectators, there was much work already done behind the scenes.
"The routine was much harder than it is in college," Medlin says of his season with the Dolphins. "The time we'd go to class or to practice, we're already in film. It's an early day every day -- work out before meetings, then in meetings, then practice, then back in meetings. It's all day. It's a job. It's a real job."
While his first professional season has ended, Medlin's dreams - a better word, perhaps, may be his expectations - have not dimmed.
"Dreamed possible? No, I got a long way to go," he says. "It's a blessing what I have accomplished so far, but I know God has brought me here to move me further. I have much more to accomplish."
The eyes have that gleam. The smile broadens.
"I know there's a lot more in store for me. That's what it is."