Tom Brady. Troy Brown. Ty Law. Deion Branch. Tedy Bruschi. Lawyer Malloy. Julian Edelman.
Any Patriots fan who grew up in the dynasty era will list off those names and more when thinking back on the great teams of the recent past.
It's a little different when Obi Melifonwu talks about the Patriots players he looked up to as a kid though. While most fans watch from their couches or the stands, Obi is now walking the same hallowed halls as his idols.
It is rare for a football player to make it to the NFL. It is even rarer to make it to the Super Bowl. It is even rarer than that to make it to the Super Bowl on the team you grew up cheering on from your living room, and yet that is the reality for Obi, who grew up in Grafton, Mass.
"It is a dream come true. It means a lot because I grew up in Massachusetts," Obi said. "I grew up a Patriots fan. I witnessed them go to multiple Super Bowls. As a kid, you dream of playing for your home team, so it's definitely been something special."
At 24, Obi watched Patriots greats who made history for the franchise, including some of his now current teammates. As a high school student, Obi watched on as Patriots players faced off in a charity basketball game, and he even got his shirt signed. What players autographs did he collect that night?
Devin McCourty and Julian Edelman.
And now, he trains alongside both Devin and Julian every day.
Even beyond being a fan, Obi had a unique relationship to the organization from a young age. From 12 to 17, Obi attended the Ron Burton Training Village, a place where kids train to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It was founded by Ron Burton Sr., the Patriots first draft pick in 1960. His legacy of giving back to the community led to the creation of the Ron Burton Man of the Year award, given each season to a player who keeps his spirit alive through their charitable work.
The Ron Burton Training Village is known for instilling structure and discipline in young boys and girls, beginning each day with a seven-mile run. This experience with the program, one so heavily weighted in the Patriots organization, shaped Obi into the person and football player he is today.
"Just perseverance," he said of what he learned from his years in the program. "Everything I’ve been through this past year, I’ve just been hurt, coming back from injury, getting hurt again, getting cut by the Raiders and getting picked up by the Patriots. It’s almost like that run you do every morning, that seven mile run. You have ups and downs. You have adversity but you just keep battling, you just keep running and you finish. You finish the race."
Finishing the race now means going to the Super Bowl, a feat that is the stuff of dreams for a local kid.
"When I walked into the locker room and I saw the names on the lockers, I just felt blessed, honestly blessed to be here," Obi said. "Like I said I really appreciate Coach [Bill] Belichick taking a chance. Like I said, every day I walk in here and I don’t take it for granted to play for this team and be a part of this group of guys."