Henry Melton comes home

IRVING, Texas -- If you want to know who Henry Melton is, just ask his family.

They will tell you the Dallas Cowboys' newly signed defensive lineman is more than the stats he collects.

"A cool guy who likes to joke around and a real homebody, most of the time," Melton's sister, Kameshia Melton, said about him. "Just a real cool guy. We can hang out and chill for just hours and look at the computer and watch movies. He's a huge fan of 'Tombstone' and movies like that."

Growing up in Grapevine, Texas, Melton first put on football pads in the fifth grade and played running back in Pop Warner leagues all the way to high school.

But Melton had to look up to his big sister, who played volleyball and basketball and ran track in high school.

"I had to talk my daughter into playing sports," said Melton's mother, Cinithia Melton. "I thought it was the quickest way to make friends. Once we saw her play, we knew she was a natural-born athlete, so he had big shoes to fill."

She got a scholarship to play volleyball at Auburn, and Henry stuck with football and hoped to play at only one school: Texas.

"He's a Texas kid," said Kameshia, who is two years older than Henry. "He had all these schools recruiting him all over and he just wanted to play for Texas."

Melton got the scholarship he wanted to play at Texas, and after two seasons at running back, he was moved to defensive line.

He utilized his size -- now 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds -- and became an NFL player. His uncle, Ray Crockett, Cinithia's brother, played 14 years for three NFL teams.

So Henry Melton gets his athletic ability naturally.

In four NFL seasons, Melton has 15.5 sacks, including six in 2012. But the 2009 fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears played in only three games last season due to a torn ACL.

Melton will be limited when organized team activities (OTAs) start Tuesday at Valley Ranch. The work ethic he applies while recovering from his injury was established by his mother.

When Melton's father left the family, Henry needed guidance, and he got it from his mother.

He learned about working hard and being loyal. When he was in high school, his mother would drive him and his sister to a volleyball match in the middle of the week and to football games on Fridays.

Driving to Auburn, Alabama, to see Kameshia was a grind for Cinithia, so Kameshia transferred to the University of Arkansas at Monticello after two seasons.

Melton understood the importance of family.

It was just the three of them.

When Melton had the chance to play in his hometown after he became a free agent this spring, it was an easy decision to make. Melton had a bond with Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and could see family members more often and not just in the offseason.

"I'm excited to come back home and work with Rod [Marinelli] and get back to my Pro Bowl form," Melton said. "It's a great group of guys there."

The Cowboys have the expectation that Melton can replace the departed Jason Hatcher, who signed a free-agent contract with the Washington Redskins.

Melton played his best football with the Bears under Marinelli, who helped him reach the Pro Bowl in 2012.

Marinelli is excited to have a former pupil join a revamped defensive line that's looking to improve a pass rush that lost not only Hatcher but also DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys' franchise leader in sacks. Melton understands the pressures placed on him but knows he's got his family in his corner.

"Growing up, he was an athlete," Cinithia Melton said. "Everything was about football and baseball. He was that kind of kid, and he loved football and baseball. When we moved back to Texas [from California], he wanted to make sure he could play football. And when he found out he could, life was grand."