FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots players — they’re just like you!
Safety Obi Melifonwu grew up in Grafton, Mass. as a “huge Patriots fan,” so he was understandably very happy this week to sign with the team he cheered on as a kid.
“Everybody was excited, especially my family,” Melifonwu said. “Growing up here, I’ve been a huge Patriots fan. So, everybody’s excited. Everybody’s ready to watch me play.”
Melifonwu had some quality safeties to look up to as a young Patriots fan, watching those early-2000s teams.
“Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison are two I definitely watched,” Melifonwu said. “The team as a whole — Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Deion Branch, all of them. I was a huge fan.”
Melifonwu, 24, is even young enough to have watched current Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung as a fan. Chung was drafted in 2009 when Melifonwu was 15 years old. McCourty was selected a year later.
“Yeah, those are two guys both have a lot of range, both can tackle,” Melifonwu said. “They definitely stress that here, tackling. Both can do a lot of things for the defense to play multiple roles, and that’s something that I envy, being a guy that can be versatile and help with a lot of different things.”
Melifonwu has mostly played safety during his football career, but given his elite athleticism (4.40-second 40-yard dash) for his size (6-foot-4, 224 pounds), he’s also been tried out at cornerback. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t dismiss the idea of moving around the UConn product.
Melifonwu listed game-winning kicks by Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots’ comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI as some of his best memories as a fan. His first game at Gillette Stadium actually came last week, however.
“I didn’t go to any (as a kid), but I did get a chance to go to the Green Bay Packers game,” Melifonwu said. “It’s been a dream my whole life to go to a Patriots game, so I’m glad I got to fill that before I got to play here.”
It was a close call.
“Being able to drive 40 minutes to home is something that makes me happy, makes my family happy and definitely makes my friends happy,” Melifonwu said.
Thumbnail photo via Doug Kyed/NESN.com
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