Obi Melifonwu has had a rollercoaster start to his NFL career.
A second round pick in 2017 by the Raiders, Melifonwu was released in his second season. He latched on with the Patriots, the team he cheered on as a child growing up in Grafton, Mass., first with a practice squad deal.
Now he’s preparing to play in the Super Bowl for his hometown team.
For Melifonwu, it’s a valuable point on a journey that he hopes won’t end anytime soon.
“I’m a strong believer in if you’re not getting better at something, you’re getting worse, so to be in this position and to come this far, you definitely have to have something that’s deep inside that nobody can really push you to be great or do things to the best of your ability,” Melifonwu told NESN.com. “That’s something that you have to push yourself. What motivates me and gives me a chip on my shoulder is I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. I had one offer to UConn. So, that’s definitely something that’s given me a chip on my shoulder.”
Melifonwu’s former coach and principal at Grafton (Mass.) High School are both excited about the Patriots playing in the game … and seeing their former charge excel on the stage he has. And they’re confident that Melifonwu landing with the Patriots was meant to be.
“What he’s gone through – being drafted and then being released and then picked up by the Patriots – he’s worked hard, it’s well-deserved,” Grafton High School Principal James Pignataro told MassLive. “Beyond that, he’s just a tremendous person.”
Added Grafton football coach Chris McMahon: “I think he always knew that he had the ability to maybe do something special. When he came here from the Raiders, I think we all felt this was the best possible situation for him – to be in a place where there’s tremendous stability, where there’s veteran presence in the locker room to guide him. I think him being in the Patriots organization himself was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to him.
“The biggest thing to me with Obi is just the type of person he is, he’s genuine, honest, hardworking, he’s the kind of guy you want on your team. He’s the kind of guy you want to root for, as well. Sometimes we lose track of what makes these guys successful, and I think Obi’s success lies in his personality.”
With one more win on Sunday, Melifonwu would get to flash that personality alongside the Lombardi Trophy, and bring a little bit of Grafton, Mass. to the brightest lights and stage. He dreamed of doing precisely that with precisely this team when he was in high school, and now he’s almost there.