Leland Melvin to speak about journey from NFL to NASA at ULS

Retired NASA astronaut Leland Melvin traveled to space twice while working for NASA. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/NASA

Leland Melvin, the first former NFL player to become an astronaut and travel to space, will share his life story at the first University Lecture Series (ULS) of the semester Thursday night to help inspire students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Medicine careers.

The event will be held in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom from 7-8 p.m. Check-in for the event will begin at 4:30 p.m. and doors will open at 6:30 p.m. 

Melvin was paid $32,500, which also covers his hotel and transportation, leaving $100,000 in the ULS budget for the rest of the semester.

Campus Activities Board recommends all attendees preregister through BullsConnect to secure a seat prior to the event, and they will also have priority entrance to the ballroom. 

Only 700 spots are available for preregistration as the remainder of the 802-seat capacity are reserved for VIP guests, including student organizations, USF dignitaries and collaboration partners, according to ULS and special events graduate assistant Isabelle Starner. 

As of Wednesday, 87 people have preregistered, according to BullsConnect.

Information technology major Goziem Nwafor will be moderating the event and students in the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end.

Melvin was observed with the NFL Players Association “Award of Excellence” for being an inspiration to athletes and exhibiting excellence both on and off the field.

The Detroit Lions chose Melvin as a wide receiver in the 11th round of the 1986 NFL college draft, according to his NASA biographical data. However, he pulled a hamstring and was released from the team that same year. 

In October 1986, Melvin joined the Toronto Argonauts practice roster, and then the Dallas Cowboys the following spring. His football career ended when he pulled a hamstring for the second time while with the Cowboys. 

Although his time as a professional football player was short, Melvin spent 25 years working at NASA.

He went back to school following his injury and got a master’s degree in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia in 1991. Melvin applied for the NASA Astronaut Candidate Program in 1989.

For three weeks after his NASA training, Melvin suffered from an ear injury which almost made him deaf, according to a 2017 Detroit Free Press article. 

The training exercise had him go 20 feet underwater and he emerged with blood coming out of his left ear, the article said. Doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to go to space, but after he regained partial hearing he was given a waiver to fly.

In February 2008 and November 2009, Melvin traveled to space.

After retiring from NASA in 2014, Melvin appeared on the TV series “One Strange Rock” in 2018, according to his IMDb profile. He was also in the documentary series “How to Build… Everything” in 2016 and “Truth Behind the Moon Landing” in 2019.

Melvin also appeared on the seventh season of “Top Chef” as an elimination challenge guest judge, and was the host of seasons 1 and 2 of “Child Genius,” according to his website.