INDIANAPOLIS – That Melvin Bullitt is even-keeled and focused on the opportunity at hand is nothing new.
Bullitt has been one of the club's more mature players throughout his career. He stepped off the bus that way from day one as a Colt in 2007.
Bullitt made the team as an undrafted free agent that year, and he is one in a long line of players who joined the team in that fashion and who went on to a noteworthy career.
In his fifth season, things are a little different for Bullitt. To this point in his career, he served as the back-up to Bob Sanders. It never affected his preparation, however. Now, he is the front-runner at strong safety. It is full speed ahead for Bullitt.
"He hasn't changed," said Head Coach Jim Caldwell. "That's the thing about him. He's still a hard worker. He's still a sharp and positive guy. He's still a very good leader. He's always been a very spirited tackler and loves contact. You can see that he has a much more clear understanding of what his responsibilities are, and he does them with much more ease than he's done them before.
"He stepped right in and filled a void that we had in his rookie year and did a tremendous job. He's been a guy that's been able to fill in and catch on to the defense in terms of schematically what we were doing and fit well within it. He tackled well. He was a play-maker and an opportunist. Melvin always seems to be in the right place at the right time with tipped balls and things of that nature. He is a very fine team leader as well."
Bullitt has emerged as one of the senior members not only on defense, but on the roster overall. While he joins many players in marveling how quickly a career is rolling by and he has a veteran outlook, he will not change how he goes about the rest of his game.
"It goes by quickly," said Bullitt. "Just yesterday, it felt like I was coming in my first year, a new guy (seeing) a lot of new faces. Now, I'm in my fifth year, kind of a veteran. I am running around with guys looking to me asking me questions about, 'How to get here (in the defense), or what to do?' It's a little bit different, but time flies.
"I think I've changed as far my aspect toward being a professional. At first, it was doing anything I could to make the team. That part of my mindset is still the same. I've always got the mindset going in, 'I have to make the team, do exactly what I can and hustle hard.' Now that I know my role on the team, it is a little bit different as far as being a guy people look up to, come ask me questions about the defense, how to line up, what to do here and different situations. It's a little bit different role, but I'm always going to approach it the same way, with hard work, running hard and doing everything I can to help us win."
The situation has changed for Bullitt in that Sanders has moved on and he now is the opening-day starter. Bullitt played behind Sanders for four years, and he started 24 times when Sanders was injured and out of the lineup.
It began happening in Bullitt's second year (2008), when he opened nine games and had four interceptions. Bullitt answered the starting bell 12 times in 2009, and he started three of four games in 2010 before a season-ending shoulder injury. The absence of Sanders does not change how Bullitt prepared for this year.
"It doesn't change anything. He (Bob) was a good player when he was here and he's still a good player," said Bullitt. "I've always approached things as if I am going to be a starter and that I would move into a starting spot, no matter what. I always said, 'If I do what I'm supposed to do, I will get on the field.' That's what I always did, and it worked out. I'm listed as a starter. It doesn't really matter what's on paper. It matters what happens on Sundays and how you get it done."
Bullitt has gotten it done on the field. He totaled 82 tackles in 2009 and 69 in 2008. Three of his four interceptions in 2008 came in the final 42 seconds of games Indianapolis won by four, four and five points. The first of those three thefts sealed a game where the club rallied from a 17-point deficit in the game's final four minutes. The other two came after the Colts opened 3-4 and began a nine-game winning streak to make the playoffs.
Count cornerback Jerraud Powers among those who admire and respect Bullitt's approach, even if he cannot match the enthusiasm level.
"Melvin is an 'energy' guy. He sort of brings that mood of, 'Everybody relax,' type of feeling," said Powers. "You will find some guys who might be uptight a little bit and if you're around Melvin a little bit, he's going to loosen you up and make sure you're having a good time. Whenever he's out there, he's just having a good time. He's having fun, flying around and doing his job. He keeps the mood up. You'll never see Melvin in too many bad moods, sort of like Dallas (Clark). I think that's Melvin's personality. Melvin doesn't worry about the negatives of football or life in general. He takes the positives, runs with it and makes sure he lives life to the fullest. You'll see Dallas running around going, 'Good morning,' and having a great time. Melvin's our Dallas on defense. Everybody's cut from a different cloth. I try to stay in the best mood possible, but I'm not going to wake up every day and feel like Melvin feels. He's a good guy to look up to if you're looking for a role model or a leader to follow. Melvin's definitely a guy you can look to."
As for Bullitt, he will maintain his status quo in his mission. It is the only thing he knows, and it has paid dividends.
"I still feel like I'm 18," he said. "As long as I feel that way for five more years and get five more good years in, I will feel good."