Nevada football coach Jay Norvell compares his pass-catching corps to a basketball team. And if he were to actually put together a basketball team from his wideouts, Melquan Stovall would be the point guard.
At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Stovall is the smallest of the Wolf Pack's scholarship wideouts, and while he might not have flashy numbers like those of all-conference stars Romeo Doubs and Cole Turner, you shouldn't downgrade his value.
"He's really a dirty-work kind of a guy," Norvell said. "He blocks on the perimeter. He does all the tough things you ask. He runs down on kickoffs. He runs down on punts."
Stovall, the team's starter in the slot, stepped into the spotlight last Saturday with his career-best performance in a 55-28 win over New Mexico State. With Nevada without standouts like Doubs and Elijah Cooks due to injury, Stovall caught seven passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. All were single-game college highs, with his touchdown being the first of his three-year Wolf Pack career.
"I just knew it was a matter of time before Melquan would get his opportunities," Norvell said. "It's hard to imagine that was his first touchdown, and what a big play it was on a vertical pass. He's capable of doing those kind of things, and I think as the season goes on, you're going to see him get his hands on the ball more."
Stovall is the short and slippery member of the Wolf Pack pass-catching crew that includes the 6-4 Cooks, the 6-2 Doubs, the 6-6 Turner, the 6-2 Tory Horton, the 6-2 Justin Lockhart and 6-3 Harry Ballard III. Stovall readily accepts the dirty-work role he's been assigned.
"I feel like my game is I can block, I can run routes, I just do whatever the team needs me to, whether it's special teams (or anything else)," Stovall said. "We pride ourselves on playing special teams. We try to get on all phases of special teams, and it's a mindset that we come in and no matter what position we're at, we'll do our best job."
A native of Southern California, Stovall has 73 career catches for 715 yards and the 65-yard touchdown he scored last week, 50 of which came after he caught a short pass from Carson Strong. This season, Stovall has 21 receptions for 294 yards in five games. After his touchdown, Stovall took a knee to honor his sister, Melkyra, who died in a freak car accident in 2018 at age 19.
"I took a knee and put my finger up to the sky," Stovall said. "It was for my sister. She passed away in 2018, and I just wanted to dedicate the game for her. She meant a lot to me. She was the type of person that'd walk into the room and her smile would brighten up the room. She was a very loving and caring person. No matter who you were, she was always there for anyone who needed helps. She meant the world to everyone she met."
Strong said he was looking to get Stovall his first career touchdown after all the sacrifices he's made for the Wolf Pack over the years, but even Stovall admitted he was surprised to find the end zone.
"It felt good," Stovall said. "I was kind of shocked at first, but my coaches and teammates put me in a great position to be successful. And the defense and the coaches push us every day to be the best we can be every day at practice."
Stovall's brother, Melquise, played for Hawaii, the Wolf Pack's opponent this week, in 2019 and 2020, both Rainbow Warriors wins. Hawaii whacked Nevada by 51 points in Reno in 2019 before ending the Wolf Pack's perfect season, 24-21, in Honolulu last season. Stovall, who held a scholarship offer from Hawaii coming out of high school, said beating the Rainbow Warriors would be meaningful given the recent results against the team.
"It means a lot," Stovall said of Saturday's contest. "This game is a big one. Coach Norvell tells us every day and reminds us every day that two years in a row they came and beat us. He tells us that we really need to prepare like this for every game. Every time we come out to practice, any team could be beat on any given night. We just take a mindset that we have to work harder every day and get better and we all compete at practice."
Stovall, from Junipero Serra High out of Palmdale, Calif., said one of the reasons he picked Nevada over several other scholarship offers was his bond with the Wolf Pack coaching staff, which was the only group to routinely check in on him after his sister's death. Stovall is part of a big Southern California contingency on Nevada's roster, many of whom play receiver. That kinship was another draw to join the Wolf Pack.
"I feel like it's more of a brotherhood," Stovall said. "We all like to win. It's all about the competition. Everyone from Southern California, we don't want to lose. We come in and we compete and we work hard. That's the Southern California mindset. We work hard and we refuse to give up no matter what situation we're in."
You can watch Melquan Stovall's full NSN Daily interview below.