Leodis McKelvin has already experienced a variety of highs and lows in his young NFL career. There was the 98-yard kickoff return touchdown his rookie season in 2008 that electrified the crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium on a Monday night against Cleveland, and a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown against Kansas City later that year.
Things did not get off to nearly as smashing a start for McKelvin in 2009, as he appeared in only three games before being lost for the season with a fracture fibula against Tampa Bay. Veteran Drayton Florence assumed the starting role at right cornerback, and when the Bills opened this year's training camp on July 28, the position was still Florence's to lose, with McKelvin lining up at right corner only when the team went to the nickel package.
McKelvin, the 11th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, knew this was the plan going into camp at St. John Fisher.
"When we go to nickel, Drayton has been a majority nickel back guy (in his career), so they put me on the outside," he said. "I come in, and fit in the spot (at right corner.)"
Bouncing back from what was virtually a lost season, McKelvin said he is eager to compete with Florence to get back into game shape, and potentially win back the starting role outside.
"It's a lot of motivation, because I want to be an every-down guy, I don't want to go in on just nickel package and things like that. We've got a long camp before the regular season starts, so you never know what's going to happen by the end of camp, or how things are going to change," McKelvin said. "Right now, Terrence (McGee) has been getting less reps (at left corner), sometimes he goes in there first and I go in there and get him in base (defense) sometimes, I guess that's another reason me and Florence are still competing. I'm still out there going hard, just trying to make each of us better."
The competition has caught the eye of at least one defensive teammate. Veteran safety Donte Whitner said that current starters are still fighting to hold their spot in the lineup each and every practice at training camp.
"Just because you are first team right now doesn't mean you will be first team going into the season. You have to make sure that you don't make a lot of mistakes out there, and you've got to make sure that you being a starter is the best thing for the football team," Whitner said. "Then you go from there, but (so far) guys are really battling."
McKelvin missing the majority of his second season was likely a setback in his development, but he seemed to quickly pick back up during spring workouts, and so far at training camp, has made a few plays on the ball. Perhaps most importantly, he said he is not experiencing any discomfort in his leg.
"I feel great, I feel really great. I feel confidence in these plays right now. The defensive plays we are running, I feel a whole lot more comfortable in man and things like that," McKelvin said. "I'm just ready to go play."
While it might appear that McKelvin is in an uphill climb to unseat Florence, who also performed well in the spring and has done much of the same to begin training camp, Whitner did not believe that number 28 is feeling as much pressure as one would assume.
"Leodis made a lot of plays in OTAs, a lot of plays out here in the first few days, and the same thing with Drayton," Whitner said. "I think the tough part is going to come down to the coaching staff, how to get both guys on the field, and how to get both of them a lot of reps, because both can help our football team."
McKelvin remains optimistic about where he is on the depth chart right now, and believes that being a reliable player when his number is called will help him in his battle to get back into the starting 11 come the regular season opener against Miami, September 12 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"I've got to stay consistent, make sure I don't get beat deep or anything like that. That's going to happen sometimes playing cornerback, so I've just got to be consistent, and make plays every day," he said. "I wish I would have had more time (last year) out there on the playing field, I would have been (more) advanced right now. My talent hasn't left, I know it hasn't left me, so I'm just ready to go out there and perform."