Obi Melifonwu looked up to Byron Jones when the two defensive backs shared the field at Connecticut two years ago.
On Monday, Melifonwu paid tribute to his former teammate and current Dallas Cowboys defensive back by taking the final day of the Combine by storm in similar fashion.
Melifonwu, an athletic safety, beat everyone at his position in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.4 seconds. Then he went and beat everybody at the Combine in the vertical leap (44 inches) and the broad jump (11 feet, 9 inches). The only broad jump better than Melifonwu's in Combine history was the world record Jones set in 2015, when he soared 12 feet, 3 inches.
"That's my guy right there," Melifonwu said of Jones on Sunday. "I still look up to him now. We still keep in touch. He's like my big brother."
Jones, who started every game for the NFC East champion Cowboys last season, was similarly off the radar when he made headlines in Indianapolis, but Melifonwu has been riding a wave of momentum dating back to January, when he shined at the Senior Bowl. He was included in a handful of mock drafts as a potential late, first-round pick and is poised to appear in even more after Monday's impressive showing.
Not bad for a fifth-year player who began his college career as a three-star athlete without a specific position.
"I owe it all to the man up above," Melifonwu told NFL Network after his workout. "He's blessed me with a great gift and I'm just blessed."
The Browns, of course, hold five of the draft's top 65 picks and could be in the market for a safety at any point. The No. 33 slot to start Day 2 could be where a player such as Melifonwu emerges as an alluring option for a team that struggled to stop the deep ball in 2016.
Melifonwu, a former high school track star, got better and better as his career at Connecticut progressed. A three-year starter, Melifonwu was at his best this past year, when he racked up 128 tackles and four interceptions.
At 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, Melifonwu is built to withstand the rigors of modern NFL passing attacks. He knows he'll be tasked with not only serving as the last line of defense against teams' top wide receivers, but also stopping the game's best tight ends.
"Being able to have range, being able to really break down and cover longer receivers, tight ends, it's definitely something that's been beneficial," Melifonwu said. "It's definitely a strength. There's definitely been a transformation in tight ends in the league, taller receivers. I think I'm someone that can definitely help a lot of teams and they can use me as an asset."