Just Blog Baby’s interview with Obi Melifonwu

Mar 6, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Connecticut Huskies defensive back Obi Melifonwu runs the 40 yard dash during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Connecticut Huskies defensive back Obi Melifonwu runs the 40 yard dash during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Seth Murphy of Just Blog Baby was granted an interview with Oakland Raiders second round draft selection Obi Melifonwu.

I was thankful to be able to sit down with Oakland Raiders second round pick and freak athlete Obi Melifonwu to talk about becoming a member of the Silver and Black.

For every segment following the first question and answer, I’ll be “Seth” and Obi Melifonwu will be referred to “Obi”.

Seth Murphy: So you graduated on Sunday and had Rookie Mini-Camp before that; I know it has probably been pretty hectic, but how was your first experience in the Silver and Black? How did it feel getting your feet wet?

Obi Melifonwu: My first time on the field was actually really good. I got the playbook down pretty well and that allowed me to fly around and make plays.

Seth: So I need to ask, going back to high school I see that you were only a 3-star recruit, and you were really only recruited by schools in the New England area. You are far and away the most athletic prospect that I have ever graded. How did you fly so far under the radar, and did that add any motivation?

Obi: I wasn’t really being recruited actually; I only had one offer coming out of high school. It did [put a chip on my shoulder] but at the same time I was so focused on playing football and doing what I had to do there and I knew that if I took care of business that I would get a scholarship.

Seth: A lot of people comment on the speed of the game when they first get into the league, and how that is the biggest adjustment for most people. You are a bit of a unique situation though, as you were immediately one of the best athletes in the NFL the moment you were drafted. Do you think that that will help make that transition a little bit smoother?

Obi: It will definitely make the transition smoother but in order to accelerate that transition, I am going to need to get into the film room and really study the playbook in order to make the transition even smoother.

Seth: Speaking of your athletic ability, what is a typical workout regimen for you? And has it changed since you started working out with ASPI?

Obi: Really when I started working out with ASPI my typical regimen for me in high school was just squats — that’s really all I did. I played running back in high school I would squat and I would bench but going to ASPI, [they] taught me about the little muscle groups in my body and how to take care of them and actually how to work those out. They really focused on knee stability and hip stability and things like that in order for me to [utilize] all the potential in my body. They also focused a lot on mobility and flexibility.

Seth: Your build and athletic ability are pretty unique as far as defensive backs go. Is there someone that you model your game after?

Obi: There a couple of players that I model my game after. Kam Chancellor because he is another big safety in the NFL that is dominant — I can definitely take some things from him. Other safeties like Devin McCourty, and even safeties of the past — Ed Reed, Charles Woodson, Bob Sanders, Brian Dawkins. Guys like that, that did well in the league and played a long time in the league. I definitely want to add bits and pieces of their game to create my own.

Seth: You mentioned Kam Chancellor — he’s a guy that delivers a lot of those kill shot, highlight-reel plays. That was a big criticism of you coming out, that you don’t have a lot of those on film. To be fair you don’t miss many tackles, but can you respond to that criticism?

Obi: Definitely. I think that that is one thing that I can improve to my game. There is a time and a place for that but like you said at the end of the day, the most important thing as a safety is to stop them from scoring touchdowns and I think I do that really well. I think I tackle really well.

Delivering big hits is something that I can definitely work on. But in terms being a sound and good tackler, I think that trumps being a big hitter in the NFL because at the end of the day, you are trying to stop them from scoring points. If you are going to hit someone and blow them up and you miss the tackle, then they can also score, so like I said there is a time and a place for that and it is something that I will certainly work on at the next level.

Seth: Can you walk me through what it was like to be drafted by the Raiders? Did the Raiders express interest in you in the pre-draft process?

Obi: No actually, I didn’t think that I was going to get drafted by them at all. At the combine, I had a formal meeting with them, with [Jack] Del Rio and [Reggie] McKenzie but besides that, they didn’t really express much interest. So when I actually got the call that they were going to turn my name in for the [56th] pick, I was surprised. But at the same time, I was excited about it.

Seth: You will now be playing on a defense with some great leaders and great football players including Bruce Irvin, Reggie Nelson and the reigning defensive player of the year in Khalil Mack. Who is the player that you are most excited to play with?

Obi: Honestly, I couldn’t really answer the question. I am excited to play with all of them and learn from them, even the new guys. Carr is another guy that I am excited to play with and just really learning those aspects of football and being a professional. And I am also excited to play with Marshawn Lynch. He is another guy that I watched when I was in high school and when I was in college, so that’s definitely going to be exciting.

Seth: The Raiders have made it a priority over the last couple of offseasons to add both veteran and young talent to the secondary. What are your thoughts on being able to learn from a guy like Reggie Nelson, who by all accounts is a brilliant football mind and leader on the backend of that unit?

Obi: You can never stop learning and growing as a football player, so I am really eager to hear what he has to say and really study him and what he has done to become a successful football player.

Seth: You may have heard by now that the tight end position has been the Raiders kryptonite on defense. A team source told JBB that one of the main reasons that you were drafted is to be able to lock down athletic TEs. There are guys like Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates in this division. How do you feel about taking on a challenge like that?

Obi: I am a guy that likes challenges. It’s going to be a challenge but at the same time I’m very confident in my ability. With practice and with game study I think that I will be able to handle my own.

Seth: Historically the Raiders have prided themselves on DB play. Some of the greatest Raiders of all-time have been DBs like Charles Woodson, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum, George Atkinson, and one of your coaches, Rod Woodson. Do you feel that you can be the next great Raiders DB and help carry on that tradition?

Obi: I would like to think that I could be the next great Raider defensive back, but that is not something that can be said, that is something that has to be done, and something that has to be practiced. I think I need to take the steps in order for me to accomplish that goal. Those are things like learning from them, learning from Rod, learning from guys that have been in the NFL, having a long season, a long career and playing well.

Seth: Football is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to maintain the determination to keep working all season, everyone in the NFL has something that drives them, whether it be their family or the love of football or whatever. What is it for you?

Obi: There are a lot of things that keep me going. Definitely my family, only having one offer coming out of high school, that is something that drives me and puts a chip on my shoulder, and really just wanting to be the best football player that I can and being the best teammate that I can, and being one of the guys that does get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Those are all things that drive me. And God drives me, knowing that he is always going to have my back and knowing that I can do all things through him, that also drives me.

Seth: I want to move on to some non-football questions and let Raider Nation get to know a little bit about you as a person. So you were born in London and I know soccer is big there, and you have mentioned that you played rugby as well. If you weren’t a football player then what sport would you play?

Obi: I honestly can’t see myself playing any other sport professionally or really having that as a goal or as a profession.

Seth: So what would be your dream job outside of sports?

Obi: I like building stuff, I like helping out other people, so it would definitely be along the lines of maybe being an architect or a civil engineer. Building houses or really helping out the community, and helping out those that are less fortunate and their families.

Seth: So a lot of rookies, when they get their first check they like to buy their mom a car or house or something. Do you have any plans for your first purchase?

Obi: I haven’t really thought about it, I am going to focus on playing football and saving my money and investing it and being smart with that, so as of right now I haven’t really thought about any major purchases that I am going to make with the money I get.

Seth: Any interesting hobbies?

Obi: Yeah, I am a big movie guy, I love movies, I love TV shows so I definitely do that. Video games; I am a gamer, and Call of Duty is my favorite game. World at War 2 is coming out this November so I am excited about that, so that is really it.

Seth: I want to thank you for sitting down with us and huge congratulations on graduating and becoming a Raider. We wish you nothing but the best!

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Obi is clearly a very intelligent and thoughtful individual. He will do a phenomenal job as a leader on this defense for years to come. Thanks to guys like Obi, the future is bright for the Silver and Black.