The list of UConn defensive backs playing in the NFL is long and distinguished. It includes Darius Butler, Tyvon Branch, Robert McClain, Andrew Adams and 2015 first round pick Byron Jones, among others.
Obi Melifonwu is next. He could even beat the program’s record for earliest UConn draft pick, an honor currently shared by Jones and running back Donald Brown at No. 27 overall.
The Massachusetts native, who ended a productive run at UConn as a four-year starter at safety, wowed scouts with his performance at the combine. At UConn’s Pro Day, he went through some drills and spoke with the teams’ representatives.
UConn’s disappointing season prevented him from gaining attention in the fall, but Melifonwu wasn’t worried about it.
“UConn is known for their DBs,” he said. “I wasn’t that concerned. At the end of the day, the NFL is going to find players.”
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Melifonwu had the best broad jump and vertical jump and was in the top-five among defensive backs in the 40-yard dash. With little to prove in the way of measurables, he was focused on positional drills.
“I wanted to show, being a taller guy, that I’m smoother out of my breaks,” said, Melifonwu, who reportedly is being looked at as a corner. “I wanted to show I had a little bit of range.
He ran the three-cone drill (7.07 seconds) and the 60-yard shuttle (10.95 seconds), two events he didn't run in Indianapolis. His shuttle would have been second-best among combine participants.
Not just a workout wonder, Melifonwu started to make waves after a standout performance in the Senior Bowl.
“I think the whole process, from my senior season, to the Senior Bowl, the combine and now Pro Days have all been beneficial and a help,” Melifonwu said. “I think [the Senior Bowl] helped reassure what I could already do.”
The NFL Draft process has certainly been different from the college recruiting process. UConn was the only FBS offer he received.
“I came from a small high school,” Melifonwu said. “Being from Massachusetts and a small high school, I just got missed.”