Lions defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu knows he's at a pivotal point in his career

Detroit Lions Training Camp
Detroit Lions Training Camp / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

After two tough seasons to start his career, Lions defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu knows he's at a pivotal time in his career.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, a third-round pick in 2021, will always be known (by those who care to recall such things) as the first draft pick the Detroit Lions had from the Matthew Stafford trade. A thigh injury limited him to seven games as rookie, though he was a starter and nearly an every snap player at cornerback over the last three games that season.

Melifonwu (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) made the transition to safety last year. He was banged up at times again last season, playing in 10 games with one start (Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers).

Melifonwu is still an interesting young player. It has just become harder to foresee a great opportunity for him this season in a refurbished Lions' secondary. But if he can be healthy, as he was during last week's minicamp, he needs to seize the opportunity.

Ifeatu Melifonwu knows he's already at a pivotal point in his career

With C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Tracy Walker and Kerby Joseph not on the field, Melifonwu got a bigger opportunity during last week's three-day mandatory minicamp. Reporters on ground at Allen Park noted he wasn't flawless on the practice field, but simply being available was an important step in his development.

Head coach Dan Campbell was also sure to note Melifonwu's development.

Via Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire, here's what Campbell said about Melifonwu before last Thursday's final minicamp practice.

"“Yeah, I would say you see growth,” “To your point, he’s relatively new to the position and you’re right, the injuries hurt him, not being able to get the reps, the repetitions, added time on task. So, this is one of the few times that we’ve had him for a significant amount of time, consistently, consecutively, and so that in itself is paying dividends right now.

So we see growth, he is. He’s coming along. And look here’s the thing, Iffy’s a pretty smart player, he really is, like he gets it. He just needs time. He needs time on task, he needs reps, like a lot of young guys do.”"

Melifonwu acknowledged the frustration of his first two seasons, amid being injured and trying to master any one position in Lions' secondary. He also changed some aesthetically, switching to jersey No. 6 this offseason.

"I mean, it’s a little frustrating,” Melifonwu said during Lions minicamp. “No one wants to be injured. And get the position change. But ultimately, I got to look at it bigger picture. It’s what’s best for the team.”"

Versatility is certainly the new theme in the Lions' secondary, with multiple players who can play multiple spots. Melifonwu fits that template, with outside cornerback/deep safety utility, and Campbell noted that too (via

"Now, here’s the beauty of Iffy, too -- he continues to train there (safety), but you’ve seen he’s played some corner, too. So, we’ll still throw him out there, particularly if a guy needs a blow for a minute, we’ll put him out there. And so, he still has the ability to do some of that. We see him as a safety, but yet, he’s played corner. So, if you need him in a pinch, he can go out there.”"

Melifonwu is broadly battling for what looks to be one of the final 5-10 spots on the Lions' 53-man roster heading into season. He'll be a sneaky someone to watch during training camp, with preseason games likely very important for him too.

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