By Matt Williams
---- — Gaining over 1,000 yards is something of a magic number for running backs.
When it comes to Framingham State senior Melikke Van Alstyne, you need two hands to count his 1,000-plus yard campaigns.
After hitting that milestone in each of his three varsity seasons at Salem High, Van Alstyne has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in all four of his years at FSU as well.
Last weekend, he joined an exclusive club when he became just the third running back in the history of Division 3 college football in New England to run for 6,000 career yards. With 6,017 career yards, Van Alstyne has a chance to pass former Maine Maritime backs Steve Tardif (6,093) and Jim Bower (6,060) as the region’s all-time Division 3 rusher.
“It blows my mind a little bit. It’s funny because I haven’t really had a chance to think about (the records),” said Van Alstyne.
The fact that the Rams are still playing is what matters most to Van Alstyne. Framingham State (9-1) won the MASCAC championship and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Division 3 tournament. They travel to Ithaca College for a first round game Saturday.
It’s the second straight NCAA tournament trip for the Rams, who finished 10-2 a year ago and lost in the first round of the NCAAs, 20-19, to Cortland State. Van Alstyne ran for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns in that game, and is relishing the chance to get back on the postseason stage.
“When I committed to Framingham State, this is what they had planned,” said Van Alstyne, who has seen FSU improve under long-time coach Tom Kelley in each of the past four seasons.
“From my standpoint, it’s been even better than I thought. I’m so happy to be here.”
Van Asltyne has the FSU records for carries in a season and career as well as the all-time marks for total yards in a game (294), season (1,790 last year) and career. He’s run for over 100 yards in nine of 10 games this season, including a pair of 200-yard outings.
“I feel like it’s because I’ve been playing with great players,” Van Alstyne said. “The milestones are a credit to the offensive line — and all our guys. I’ve been around great character guys, and we’ve given each other more drive than anything.”
This weekend, Van Alstyne will be playing for some hometown bragging rights, too. Ithaca is the alma mater of Salem High head coach Scott Connolly, who plans to go to the game to root on both his school and the player he helped graduate with the Witches’ all-time rushing mark.
“It’s a small world,” said Van Alstyne. “For us, we just can’t lose our composure. We’re on the the road and they’ll have their students there all riled up. It’s going to be a blast.”
Framingham State quarterback Matt Silva, who had a strong career at Dracut High, has developed a strong chemistry with his running back. The two of them are often the only ones in the backfield in FSU’s spread formation and have been feeding off each other for the last two seasons.
“He’s a gamer. We’ve been communicating really well and he’s really quick back there,” Van Asltyne said of his QB, who has thrown 19 TD passes.
Van Alstyne is listed at 190 pounds and has taken great care to make sure he can take the tackles that come with being a lead running back in college football.
“Part of it is knowing when to break tackles and when to slash. I try not to let anyone get a big hit on me,” he said. “It’s a lot of training before the season and keeping up on those gym sessions.”
Framingham State’s placekicker is Peabody High graduate Sean Wlasuk, who has 34 PATs on the year.
The Rams played a pair of games this season against NCAA tournament teams, beating Endicott in their season opener and falling to Rowan (New Jersey) in Week 2. Ironically, the NEFC champion Gulls drew Rowan for their own first round game.
“That should be a great matchup,” Van Alstyne said. “Those were two great teams and they definitely got us ready for this one.”
A criminology major with a minor in psychology, Van Alstyne did a prep school year at Bridgton Academy before going to FSU. He’s exploring opportunities to continue his football career after college if they come — but he’s also putting his degree first.
“It’s been a ride,” Van Alstyne said of his remarkable college career. “It’s been a great ride and I really don’t want to see it end on Saturday.
“That’s the No. 1 thing right now: Win on Saturday.”
MELIKKE VAN ALSTYNE CAREER RUSHING STATS
Year Att. Yards TDs
2006 188 1,177 12
2007 217 1,052 11
2008 206 1,624 17
Salem totals: 611 3,853 40
2010 220 1,152 7
2011 293 1,579 21
2012 311 1,790 18
2013 279 1,500 18
FSU totals: 1,103 6,021 64