MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -Leodis McKelvin has that unshakable cornerback's confidence.
When the bigtime colleges passed on signing him out of high school, he figured he'd just prove them wrong. Those two years as a backup for Troy didn't faze him either.
``I already had the confidence,'' McKelvin said. ``It was just a moment thing. I had to sit behind some seniors. I knew I had to wait and just get better and better every year. When I got my chance to start at corner, I elevated my abilities to another level.''
Now, he's poised to take them to the next level. McKelvin is one of the top-rated defensive players in next weekend's NFL draft, a projected Top 10 pick and the latest Troy defender to become a coveted pro commodity.
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora helped the New York Giants win a Super Bowl championship, and he and Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware both made the Pro Bowl.
``That gives you a lot of credibility,'' McKelvin said.
The speedy 5-foot-11, 186-pounder also has plenty of credibility as a return man. He led the nation with three punt returns for touchdowns as a senior - giving him eight for his career, one shy of the NCAA record - averaging 18.3 yards per return.
McKelvin, a late qualifier academically, received some interest from big-name schools out of high school in Waycross, Ga. Their scholarship offers never came, though.
``People overlooked me,'' he said. ``I guess I was their backup plan if they didn't get the guy they wanted. I proved them wrong. I had a chip on my shoulder.''
McKelvin made an impact at Troy as a freshman return man, but split time with veteran cornerbacks and didn't start a game on defense until his third season.
``My junior year I got my name out there as a cornerback,'' he said. ``I was already a dynamic return man. My senior year I just put both of them together and everything came out how I wanted.''
The high-profile schools might have overlooked him, but McKelvin got plenty of opportunities to play against the likes of Nebraska and Florida State and receivers such as Georgia Tech All-American Calvin Johnson.
McKelvin can still recite Johnson's numbers from their meeting in 2006: two catches for 9 yards. The current NFL receiver was slowed by an injury sustained in the second quarter, but the matchup results are still a point of pride for McKelvin.
``He went two for nine,'' he said. ``You tell me how he did. He played the whole game and went two for nine. I did a great job.''
Troy secondary coach Jeremy Rowell said the NFL interest in McKelvin grew after his performance against Oklahoma State last season. He scored on a 74-yard punt return, broke up three passes, made seven tackles and forced a fumble in the Trojans' upset win over the Big 12 team.
Rowell said McKelvin has a high ceiling in the NFL.
``He has a great future in front of him and a great upside,'' he said. ``As far as raw ability, hips, foot speed - all the things you look for out of a corner - he's just gifted with all of it.
``You throw in the return ability that goes with it ... he has a great knack for that, which makes him a very hot commodity.''
With his typical confidence, McKelvin expects whichever team drafts him to utilize both skills.
``You get an excellent corner and you get one of the top return men in college football history,'' he said. ``Why wouldn't you use me at both?''

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