As a lad, when Melvin Kearney was told that he could be anything he wanted to be, he didn't quite understand what the grownups were saying.
Today, at the age of 30, the Tarboro native plays a bodyguard named "Bo" in the ABC-TV series "Nashville" as his life gives way to the grownup's teachings. Although none of them predicted he would become an actor, they prophesied greatness beyond the little kid's imagination.
"When he came to our church as a young man, he had so much potential, so much energy, he was so positive," said the Rev. Jonah Walston, pastor of Salem Chapel Baptist Church, in Tarboro. "I told him with that approach he was going to be the president of the United States. There's nothing that he cannot accomplish if he puts his mind to it. He always looks at the glass as being half full instead of half empty and that's why I'm not surprised that he got a part on that TV show."
At an early age, Kearney often read scriptures and delivered short messages during Sunday School. He credits those times for giving him confidence to stand in front of an audience, and even landing the role on Nashville. He also credits his love for the people in his home town for planting positive seeds in his mind.
"That's why I always go back home and thank everybody who planted a seed in my life," Kearney said. "Like Rev. Walston, my dad, my aunt, my sister (Tarboro head football) Coach (Jeff) Craddock — everybody. They didn't put me in a box."
As the starting linebacker for the 2001 Vikings football team, Kearney received more life lessons from Craddock. Although he wasn't the strongest player on the team and he wasn't the fastest, he was one of its inspirational leaders. He brought intangibles to the table that coaches dream all of their players possess.
"Melvin was a great great kid," Craddock said. "He loves life, loves the Lord and he has his priorities perfectly in order. He severed his country two tours in Iraq. I wasn't surprised at all to learn that he had a acting job. I'm proud of Melvin.
Melvin is just as proud of Craddock
"He played a major roll in my life," Kearney said. "He kept pushing me and pushing me when I thought my body couldn't go any further. Then, all of a sudden, I would take off running just as fast I could just because what he was saying. I applied that in the combat zone and I'm applying it in my everyday life."
After graduating from high school, Kearney attended North Carolina A&T State University. His college career was put on hold when his National Guard Unit was called to serve in Iraq. After two tours in Iraq and completing college, he relocated in Michigan as an Army Wounded War Advocate. Kearney now lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn, where he is serving in the same capacity. His career has taken him all around the world, but for Kearney, there's no place like home.
"People ask me where I'm from, and I tell them Tarboro, North Carolina," he said. "I'm proud of where I've came from. Tarboro is taking over the airways. You got Shaun Draughn in the NFL and Todd Gurley doing his his thing with Georgia Bulldogs. You got (Takoby) Cofield with Duke. I'm proud to say I'm from Tarboro."