The way Aynsley Rosenbaum sees it, Melikke Van Alstyne is the gift that keeps on giving, yard by yard.
“We’re blessed to have him,” said Rosenbaum, the offensive coordinator for Framingham State University’s football team.
Rosenbaum is still fascinated that the senior from Salem is suiting up for the Rams, a Division 3 program.
After the 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back starred in the Agganis and Shriner all-star games for top high school seniors, then polished his skills at Bridgton Academy, Rosenbaum said, “We thought, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to get this kid.’ ”
In other words, the Rams had no chance.
“Guys who recruit in Massachusetts all knew about him,” said Rosenbaum. “We thought he’d go to a Division I-AA’’ school, or a strong junior college program “so he could chase his dream of playing at a higher level,” Rosenbaum said.
“He winds up on our roster and people said, ‘How did he wind up at Framingham?’ I think he liked the price, location, and community atmosphere. I think he said, ‘I can see myself here.’ ”
Van Alstyne looked at a couple of programs in the Northeast-10 Conference, as well as Bryant and the University of Rhode Island, but he was sold on Framingham State after his first trip to campus.
“The campus had a home feel to it. Everybody was from Massachusetts, guys who had played against each other’’ in high school, Van Alstyne said.
He also appreciated that Framingham State head coach Tom Kelley and Rosenbaum were a constant at his games, from Salem High through his year at the prep school in Maine.
After a string of losing seasons, “Coach Kelley wanted to change the program around,” said Van Alstyne. “I was ready to be part of that.”
He certainly found a home.
With his 28-carry, 105-yard effort in a 14-12 win at Western Connecticut on Saturday, Van Alstyne surpassed 5,000 career rushing yards, just the fifth player in New England to reach the mark. The Rams (3-1) pulled out the win on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from Matt Silva to former Dracut High teammate Jared Gauthier.
At Bridgton, Van Alstyne said, “I focused on reaching a goal, then setting another one.”
“One thing that stood out was that he was a great character kid,” said Kelley, also the university’s longtime athletic director. “He’s been a great addition to the campus as a whole.”
As a freshman, Van Alstyne was slated to sit, watch, and learn from senior David Leach, a former star at Chelmsford High. When Leach went down with an injury before the season opener, Van Alstyne seized the opportunity, delivering a 100-yard game against Endicott.
“Melikke’s got a different running style,” said Rosenbaum. “He’s got phenomenal vision and runs really low. He gets through the tight holes. He doesn’t hesitate.”
“I think I’m a downhill runner, a slasher,” said Van Alstyne, who tries to emulate NFL backs like Frank Gore and Stevan Ridley. “Find the hole and do what you can.”
Van Alstyne is coming off a 1,790-yard, 18-touchdown junior season in which he was named the ECAC Offensive Player of the Year.
“You’re not going to see a lot of 60-yard runs from him,” said Rosenbaum. “There are a lot of 6- and 12-yard runs. Before you blink he does something special.”
And cracking 5,000 yards? “I didn’t know until after the game,” said Van Alstyne, who has put together three 1,000-plus-yard rushing seasons. “It’s an award for me and my teammates.”
Framingham State is always assured of having at least one fan at its games, no matter how far off campus the Rams play. “My mom [Terressa] has never missed any of my games,’’ Van Alstyne said. “My dad [Melikke Sr.], sister [Tishayla]. grandmother, and cousins come to a lot of the games too. I love them with all my heart.”
He always seems to be in a good mood. “My wife said to me, ‘Does he never not smile?’” said Kelley. “He just has fun. He loves playing the game.”
To Van Alstyne, it’s as simple as picking up 6 or 7 yards.
“I’m very comfortable where I am.”