2024 CFL Draft profiles: Melique Straker credits ‘brother’ John Metchie III for NCAA opportunity

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Emilee Chinn

Melique Straker started his collegiate career at Carleton University in Ottawa but always dreamed of playing NCAA Division I football, a goal he accomplished with the help of his childhood best friend.

Straker befriended fellow Brampton, Ont. native John Metchie III when they met playing little league football at age 10 or 11. The two have been inseparable ever since, remaining close even after football led them to different parts of the continent.

“The majority of the time, if you see him, you see me. That’s my brother, the Metchies are my family,” Straker told 3DownNation via telephone. “I refer to him as my brother because blood couldn’t make us any closer than we are.”

Metchie was entering his junior season at the University of Alabama in 2021 when the Crimson Tide allowed Straker to participate in summer training with the team. Though he wasn’t offered a spot on the roster, the school agreed to pass his name along to other programs in the area to help him earn a scholarship.

Butch Jones, the head coach at Arkansas State University, had ties to Alabama having previously served as the school’s offensive analyst. He invited Straker for a workout and offered him a scholarship within 90 minutes of his arrival on campus.

“I took that scholarship right away. I knew that it was my faith in God that had placed that opportunity in front of me and I knew it was right when it came because the connection was just unreal,” said Straker.

“Coach Jones, unbeknownst to him, was connected to three young men from Brampton — myself, John Metchie, and Josh Palmer — and all at three different programs where he’d coached: Josh Palmer at Tennessee, John Metchie at Alabama, and myself at Arkansas State. I knew it was something that was meant to be.”

Straker played a hybrid role on defence over three seasons with the Red Wolves, which some programs call rover, predator, dimeback, or nickel corner. At Arkansas State, they simply call it “star.” And a star he was.

The five-foot-ten, 202-pound defender made 216 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, four pass knockdowns, two sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles over 33 career games, establishing himself as one of the team’s most productive defenders. He credited his coaches and teammates for allowing him to be so productive in a new role.

“In the system that we run, it’s set for the star — it’s set for me to make the play. A lot of times, things like counters or inside zone plays or wham plays, they’re set for me to be the unblocked player and make those plays. The coaches obviously trusted me, saw my skill set, and trusted me to be that guy to make those plays,” said Straker.

“I was coached extremely well. The attention to detail that they stressed and that I adopted came through a rigorous process. At times when you’re young, you don’t know what you don’t know — you just want to go out there and play football, but you can maximize your skill set through certain disciplines that have to go into the game.”

“Having a great group of guys around me allowed me to make those plays because it’s a team sport and I don’t take that lightly. Any success that I gain is a direct result of the guys that were around me and the things that they did.”

Straker ran a 4.82-second forty-yard dash, 7.63-second three-cone drill, and 4.75-second shuttle at his recent pro day, which would have ranked near the bottom among linebackers at the CFL Combine in Winnipeg. He shone in some areas of the testing — he leaped 125 inches in the broad jump, which would have been one of the top results at the NFL Combine — but it wasn’t an elite performance overall.

He’s not letting the numbers bother him, choosing instead to focus on proving himself at the professional level — just as he did in college.

“I’m someone who’s never satisfied because I’m always looking for improvement and how I could do better,” said Straker. “I always go back to the drawing board with everything that I do, so I’m never satisfied with anything. I always want to find room for growth.”

Straker projects as a strong-side linebacker in the CFL, which isn’t considered a high-value position because so few Canadians play that spot. Redha Kramdi is the starter for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, while Enock Makonzo has started at times for the Edmonton Elks over the past two seasons. Outside of those two teams, it’s exclusively an American position in the CFL.

The 23-year-old is one of the hardest players to project in this year’s draft. His sensational collegiate production against a high level of competition would normally make him a top-five pick, though his testing numbers and lack of positional value could push him considerably down the board.

Either way, we won’t have to wait long to learn where Straker will end up as the 2024 CFL Draft is scheduled for Tuesday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.