2017 NFL Draft: Exclusive Interview With UConn S Obi Melifonwu

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Raiders 2017 pick Obi Melifonwu
Sep 27, 2014; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies safety Obi Melifonwu (20) celebrates against the Temple Owls during the first half at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
A lot of NFL teams love to draft long, lengthy defensive backs. Ever since Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” rose into prominence, more and more teams are falling in love with big safeties and cornerbacks. And why wouldn’t they? Wide receivers are seemingly getting bigger every year, so having big defensive backs helps neutralize them.
UConn safety Obi Melifonwu definitely fits the bill. Standing in at 6’4″ and weighing about 220 pounds, he is a dream come true for defensive coordinators around the league. Melifonwu is more than just a big body, though. He is a fantastic athlete who can tackle and drop back in coverage very well.
This was made evident by his fantastic performance at the NFL Combine on Monday. He ran a blazing 4.40 40-yard dash, which was among the fastest times for defensive backs. He also showed his incredible lower-body strength: he racked up a 44-inch vertical and an 11’9″ broad jump, which led all DBs this year.
Cover32 had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his journey leading up to the NFL Draft.
At 6’4″, you have incredible height and length for a safety. What are some advantages and disadvantages that your height gives you?
Melifonwu: With my height comes many advantages. I think it plays a big part of me being able to cover bigger and longer guys players. It also gives me the ability to keep leverage and reroute players and it also plays a role in my range. I feel like my height gives me no disadvantages because I’m able to move very well with my height and weight. I like to think of myself as player who plays under control extremely well.
 
You played college football at UConn, which is the alma mater of Dallas Cowboys safety Byron Jones. Have you reached out to him at all for any advice?
Melifonwu: Of course. Byron is a guy that I look up to. Being able to play along side of him gave me an edge on and off the field, and he’s told me to just enjoy the process. Be myself, have fun and showcase to the world what I can do.
Who is the best receiver that you’ve ever had to cover?
Melfionwu: I would have to say Justin Hardy from ECU.

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Which team did you root for growing up?
Melifonwu: The Patriots was the team I grew up rooting for. Being from Massachusetts, I had a lot of New England pride and I really watched the Patriots become a dynasty.
 
You made headlines with your performance at the Senior Bowl. What was your favorite moment from that week?
Melifonwu: My favorite moment from the Senior Bowl was just really competing against the best players in the country in front of all 32 NFL teams and scouts.
 
What aspects of your game do you feel that you need to improve on?
Melifonwu: I think believing what I see. A lot of times I know where I need to be. I’ve watched film on it. I’ve practiced it, but I hesitate to go even though I know I’m right. So it would definitely be just trusting my preparation and just cutting it loose.
 
What player(s) do you model your game after? 
Melifonwu: I model my game after so many different players, past and present: not just safeties, either. Players like Barry Sanders, Ed Reed, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brian Dawkins and so many others. With saying that, I feel like I stand in a category alone with the things I can do given my size and speed.
 
If I were a GM, what would you tell me to convince me to draft you?
Melifonwu: I would tell you that picking me would be the best choice you ever made on your team. I would also tell you when it comes to players at my position, I am unparalleled, and I would do what ever it takes to help the success of the team. 

– Jacob Infante is a National Editor for cover32 and also covers the Chicago Bears. He can be followed on Twitter @jacobinfante24.

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